Louisville health dept. cautions against Zika virus in midst of - WDRB 41 Louisville News

Louisville health dept. cautions against Zika virus in midst of mosquito season

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) Kentuckiana has entered into its first mosquito season since Americans caught the Zika virus last year. While Louisville Metro Department of Public Health and Wellness employees work around the clock to pre-treat and test the mosquito population in prone areas, officials say it’s critical that residents are responsible for around their home.

“This year is different in that our mosquito that could potentially transmit Zika is a container breeder,” Connie Mendel, Environmental Health Administrator said.

According to Mendel, what’s considered the primary mosquito is not very common in Kentucky. Instead, the Aedes albopictus, or the Asian tiger mosquito is considered Jefferson County’s local mosquito and they’re capable of carrying Zika virus. They’re found throughout Jefferson County.

“They like to live in gutters and tires and buckets, your recycling containers, your trash lids, those are the types of areas that those mosquitoes like to live. They don’t fly very far. So, they stay close. They will try to get into homes. So, you need to have good screens on your windows and doors. You need to keep those closed. So, it’s a different mosquito, it’s a different behavior,” Mendel said. “They can breed into a bottle cap, they can lay their eggs in that small amount of water, hatch and then be biting adults within seven days.”

Mendel described the mosquito as black with white specks and daytime ankle biters.

“So, our normal fogging activities aren’t going to be as effective. With this disease and this mosquito, people need to be responsible for their areas because that’s where it’s going to happen.”

Health department employees are busy pre-treating mosquito prone areas across Jefferson County. They’re looking for any mosquito larva before they hatch into adults. Mosquito season typically starts around April.

Mosquito collection begins in the summertime.

At the lab, employees use several machines to take in collected samples for a chemical makeup.

“We pull off the clarified material and that goes into another process which is to begin extracting the nucleic acid, the RNA, from the mosquitoes, so we can detect West Nile Virus or hopefully Zika virus or other viruses of concern to Kentucky,” Dr. Leslie Wolf, Lab Director said. “At the end of that, the instrument has some nice graphs, it tells us if the samples are positive or negative and we have controls to help us know the process has worked all the way through extraction through DNA amplification.”

Mendel said the mosquito that’s capable of carrying Zika is unique because a person can be a hos. It can also be sexually transmitted. 80 percent of people infected don’t have symptoms.

“What we’re trying to do is prevent people from coming back with Zika and then transmitting that to our local mosquitoes. So, someone who has Zika can actually be bitten by a mosquito and then the mosquito can then transmit that to someone else,” Mendel said.

Every Zika case in Kentucky has been related to people who have traveled. Health officials ask that residents wear insect repellent for at least the first three weeks of returning.

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