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article imageWash. D.C. harboring mosquitoes capable of carrying Zika virus

By Karen Graham     Jan 26, 2016 in Science
Researchers reported on Monday they have identified a major population of Aedes aegypti, the mosquito responsible for carrying dengue fever, chikungunya, and the Zika virus in a capital hill neighborhood in Washington, D.C.
Even more compelling is that the research team found genetic evidence that the mosquitoes have overwintered for at least the past four years, leading them to believe the mosquitoes are adapting for persistence in a northern climate that is well out of their normal range.
Science Daily is reporting that researchers at the university of Notre Dame's Department of Biological Sciences, lead by Professor David Severson, are particularly concerned that the species has developed the ability to survive in the northern climes of Washington, D.C. This is a significant worry because the mosquito is usually found in tropical and sub-tropical regions of the world.
In the United States, the Aedes mosquito is most often found no further north than Alabama, Mississippi, Georgia and South Carolina. "What this means for the scientific world," said Severson, "is some mosquito species are finding ways to survive in normally restrictive environments by taking advantage of underground refuges."
Severson went on to explain the significance of the research, saying there was a real potential for transmission of a mosquito-borne tropical disease in some of the popular tourist locations in the capital, like the National Mall. This led Severson to add, "Hopefully, politicians will take notice of events like this in their own backyard and work to increase funding levels for mosquitoes and mosquito-borne diseases."
The primary scope of Severson's research has been on mosquito genetics and genomics, working to better understand disease transmission. His work has taken him all over the world, and most recently, he served as director of the Eck Institute for Global Health at Notre Dame.
His research team, working in coordination with the Disease Carrying Insects Program of the Fairfax County Health Department in Fairfax, Virginia, published their findings in the American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene.
This study, "Evidence for an Overwintering Population of Aedes aegypti in Capitol Hill Neighborhood, Washington, DC," was published in the American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene on November 2, 2015.
This study was released to the public on Monday, along with the announcement from the World Health Organization (WHO) on Monday that the Zika virus had already quickly spread throughout Equatorial countries, and was expected to spread across the Americas and into the United Staes.
More about Zika virus, Aedes aegypti, overwintering, Washington dc, restrictive environments
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