PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – Mosquitoes that are capable of spreading the Zika virus have been found in parts of western Pennsylvania.
According to the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, the Aedes albopictus mosquito has been detected in Allegheny, Beaver and Fayette counties.
“We have actually found them in this area in Beaver, Allegheny and Fayette counties,” says John Poister, of the Department of Environmental Protection. “We found them in very small quantities, not an alarming number, not anything unusual; and the ones that we’ve caught, we have examined and they do not have the Zika virus.”
The Aedes albopictus is more commonly known as the Asian Tiger mosquito.
However, the Aedes aegypti mosquito is the primary carrier of Zika in South America. It has not been detected in Pennsylvania since 2002.
According to the CDC’s website, the Asian Tiger mosquito is “less likely” to spread Zika, but could if the following happened:
- People get infected with a virus (like Zika, dengue, or chikungunya).
- An Aedes aegypti or Aedes albopictus mosquito bites an infected person during the first week of infection when the virus can be found in the person’s blood.
- The infected mosquito lives long enough for the virus to multiply and for the mosquito to bite another person.
- The cycle continues multiple times to start an outbreak.
At this point, populations of the Asian Tiger mosquito have not reached “pest levels” in our area.
“These mosquitoes are weak fliers, so if you see them, they are likely breeding nearby,” Matt Helwig, program specialist in DEP’s Vector Management program, said in a statement. “Simple precautions to eliminate potential habitat and avoid contact can lead to a safe and itch-free summer.”
“We will be looking for any change in the number, any change in the status,” Poister said. “Right now, in all of Pennsylvania, and we have been sampling throughout the state, we have not come up with any mosquitoes that have the Zika virus.”
According to the DEP, some of those precautions include the following:
- Dispose of cans, buckets, plastic containers, ceramic pots, or similar containers that hold water.
- Properly dispose of discarded tires that can collect water. Stagnant water is where most mosquitoes breed.
- Turn over wheelbarrows and plastic wading pools when not in use and don’t let water stagnate in birdbaths.
- Clean and chlorinate swimming pools not in use and remove any water that may collect on pool covers.
- Wear insect repellant during times of mosquito activity. Aedes mosquitoes are active during daylight hours
- Keep doors and windows tightly closed, or ensure that screens do not have holes or tears that can allow mosquitoes to get inside the house
“They can be their best defense against mosquitoes by making sure that they turn over anything that has standing water, even recycling bins that you have in the backyard or anything that collects water. Don’t let it pool. Turn it over,” Poister added.