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Testing Traps For Zika-Carrying Mosquitoes

University of Florida
The red and black container is a special trap, designed by University of Flordia scientists, that lures female mosquitos that carry the Zika virus.

Scientists have yet to confirm whether Florida has its first “locally acquired” case of Zika. But Florida researchers are in hot pursuit for ways to eliminate the mosquitoes that carry the Zika virus.

A team from the University of Florida Entomology and Nematology Department has developed a specialized mosquito trap that lures female mosquitoes known to carry the Zika virus. It then kills the adult and any larva.

Research scientists Roberto Pereira is co-inventor of the Zika mosquito trap. He said while they wait to get federal approval, they are continuing to collect data and do field experiments.

“We’re running an experiment actually in a cemetery in St. Augustine,” Pereira said.

They’ve set mosquito traps and distributed to chips that kill mosquito larva in standing water  like the flower vases and pots often found in cemeteries.

“How much this is really going to spread is the question here,” Pereira said. ”Fortunately in the U.S., the way we live, the availability of air conditioning, window screens will make it harder, but it doesn’t make it impossible.“

He said another field experiment is scheduled in a week in New Orleans and they hope to get funding to test their specialized trap in Honduras.

Pereira believes it’s just a matter of time before Florida has a “locally acquired” Zika case.

“One of our colleagues in CDC (Centers for Disease Control) maybe three weeks ago, he was saying that he expected local transmission to occur here in Florida probably around mid-July,” Pereira said.

He added that there are likely more cases of Zika in Florida than those reported because it’s a relatively mild disease for healthy people who are not pregnant. So, there are people who may not know they’ve had it.

Bobbie O’Brien has been a Reporter/Producer at WUSF since 1991. She reports on general news topics in Florida and the Tampa Bay region.