Nebraska officials say that mosquitoes can spread Zika, the yellow fever found in the state for the first time

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A type of mosquito known to spread diseases like the Zika virus, yellow fever, dengue and chikungunya have been found in a Nebraska county, health officials announced this week.

The Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) of Nebraska and the Department of Health of the Four Corners said Tuesday in a statement that Aedes aegypti mosquitoes have been identified in York County. The discovery marks the first time that these mosquitoes – which are typically found in tropical climates – have been located in the state.

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Mosquitoes were found during routine mosquito surveillance, which is conducted to assess the number of mosquitoes carrying the West Nile in the state. But sometimes, "mosquito traps produce unexpected results with a potential impact on public health", officials said in the press release.

Although it is known that Aedes aegypti mosquitoes spread the Zika virus and other diseases, "the transmission of these pathogens would require that a person currently infected with this disease is bitten by an Aedes aegypti mosquito and that this mosquito should bite another uninfected person, "Dr. Tom Safranek, a state epidemiologist for DHHS, said in a statement.

Close up of Aedes aegypti mosquito identified in Nebraska.

Close up of Aedes aegypti mosquito identified in Nebraska.
(Courtesy of: Four Corners Health Department)

This means that the risk of infection is low and "also depends on the presence or arrival of an infected individual in the area," he said.

"This discovery underlines the importance of our mosquito capture system," added Safranek. "Tracking and monitoring the types of mosquitoes existing in Nebraska communities is crucial, which in turn helps us identify potential public health implications and implement prevention measures to reduce the risk."

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Aedes aegypti mosquitoes, which generally bite humans during the day, can only fly about 500 feet away, health officials said. Although it is not clear at the time how they arrived in the state, Safranek said Experience Nebraska well the insects could have arrived as eggs, possibly with used tires.

The best way to prevent mosquito-borne disorders is to drain stagnant water – such as in bird baths, buckets or on pool covers – because stagnant water can serve as a breeding ground for these insects. Other preventive measures include covering the skin with pants and long-sleeved shirts on the outside and the proper use of an insect repellent containing DEET.

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