Baylor University and the City of Waco are partnering to conduct mosquito surveillance and monitoring in the Waco area.
As part of a four-year-agreement that cost $80,000, Baylor University researchers collect and test mosquitoes for viruses. The results are then submitted to the Waco-McLennan County Public Health District.
Department of Biology Associate Professor Dr. Cheolho Sim and Baylor University Graduate Student Sungshil Kim and Undegraduate Student Sarah Trooke catch mosquitoes that could carry the Zika or West Nile virus at 10 high population density locations in Waco every other week.
Sim uses two types of traps to catch the mosquitoes, one of them attracts them with a chemical and the other one with an Ultraviolet light.
"So far we have moderate activity of Zika-carrying mosquitoes and also West Nile carrying mosquitoes but luckily we didn't detect any Zika virus and West Nile virus from those mosquitoes," Sim said.
The mosquitoes are tested at a Baylor University lab for Zika and West Nile viruses.
"We don't expect epidemics like in Brazil and other Latin American countries but we expect that there will some hot spot to transmitting Zika virus so it's very important to [know] which site is more vulnerable to Zika virus transmissions," Sim said.
According to Sim, the hot spot is not consistent due to environmental factors and the time of the year.
According to Health District's Environmental Health Manager David Litke, the monitor and surveillance agreement with Baylor University that started in May helps with ongoing efforts for mosquito control.
Litke said currently in Waco there are two species of mosquitoes that could carry Zika, Chikungunya and dengue and one that could carry West Nile.
"Right now none of the [viruses] are present and we would like to keep it that way so the surveillance is more important than ever so we can monitor and we can know yes or no that virus is getting established in our local mosquito population," Litke said.
He said it is beneficial knowing about the increase of mosquitoes in the area and the type of viruses they are carrying.
"That combination allow us to help us focus our efforts, where we need to direct for more education or surveillance, looking for habitat, where the mosquitoes come from, preventive measures for each of the city departments involved," Litke said.
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