KANSAS CITY, Kan. -- As the weather warms, the mosquito population grows, and researchers say one part of the metro could be a hotspot for the Zika virus this summer.
A new study out of St. Louis University shows Wyandotte County is a hotspot for possible Zika transmission because the species of mosquito that carries Zika – aedis aegypti – has been found there.
As of right now, none of them are actually infected with Zika – but they could if they bite someone who had Zika.
Right now, only mosquitoes in Central and South America, and in parts of southern Florida and Texas, have been found infected with Zika. But several people from Kansas and Missouri who traveled to those parts of the world have come back infected. If they get bit by a local mosquito, that mosquito would then have Zika and could spread it locally by biting someone else.
"After we travel, when we come back, it's important to prevent mosquito bites for at least three weeks. And the best way to prevent mosquito bites us to use insect repellent, make sure it is EPA registered, and use it as directed. It's important to wear long pants and long-sleeved shirts," WyCo., Epidemiologist Kari Neill said.
It can also be spread through sexual contact with an infected person.
Experts say the virus stays in the blood for about a week –many don’t feel any symptoms, some get a fever, a rash, or joint pain. But since the virus causes birth defects, pregnant women should avoid getting bit this summer.
The CDC says use insect repellent – especially with Deet, wear long-sleeved shirts and pants when outside, keep windows covered with screens, and pour out any standing water outside after it rains, since that is where mosquitoes breed.
Mosquitoes also carry West Nile and other diseases, and a new study at Colorado State just released shows mosquitoes can actually transmit several viruses with just one bite. Another reason to avoid getting bit this summer.
"Mosquitoes can transmit many different diseases including Zika, that's right so it’s important for us to prevent mosquito bites when we are here at home in the metro and when we travel," Neill said.
In addition to Wyandotte County, Douglas County has been identified as a potential Zika hotspot.
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