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Mosquito Species in Florida Raises Disease Worries

It's been known to carry yellow fever virus in Brazil, though there's no sign of it in US
By Bob Cronin,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 16, 2021 1:10 PM CDT

(Newser) – A species of mosquito recently found in Florida is causing concern about the spread of disease, including yellow fever. Aedes scapularis has been present in Latin America and the Caribbean and has been discovered in Brazil to be infected with diseases including the yellow fever virus and Venezuelan equine encephalitis virus, NPR reports. Even though the mosquito has been infected with yellow fever, it's possible the species doesn't actually spread the virus. Still, researchers are concerned because species can bring diseases with them, which is what happened with Zika and dengue. The last yellow fever outbreak in the US was in 1905, per PBS. A University of Florida study warns that the new species, plentiful in the southern counties of Miami-Dade and Broward, could move north along the Florida coasts.

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The mosquito, which goes indoors, feeds on wildlife and people. "If you end up with a species that's capable of transmitting to [birds] and likes to also bite humans, that's the prime condition for a spillover event," says entomologist Lindsay Campbell, co-author of the study. That's how we got COVID-19, scientists say. Lawrence Reeves, the other study author, says 10 mosquito species new to Florida have been discovered since 2000. Climate change and travel will bring more. "There's one in particular right now that a lot of people are worrying about, Aedes vittatus," says Reeves. The mosquito, which originated in India and has reached Cuba, "is kind of a vector for pretty much everything we're worried about: dengue, chikungunya, Zika." (One plan to control Florida's mosquitos drew opposition.)

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