Could mosquitos bring the Zika virus to New Jersey?
The Zika virus, already considered a worldwide health concern, can be transmitted by mosquitoes, of which New Jersey has its fair share. As the warmer weather approaches, will mosquitos carrying the virus become more of a threat?
The jury is still out on whether mosquitoes will be part of the Zika virus threat in North America and more specifically, in New Jersey.
"it is essentially a virus of bad sanitation," said Joe Conlon, a technical adviser with the American Mosquito Control Asociation in Mount Laurel.
Will mosquitoes carrying the Zika virus come to New Jersey? According to Conlon, there are two facets to that question:
- The aedes aegypti mosquito, the one that is transmitting Zika down in Central and South America, is found in the United States, but it is in the lower tier of the southern states. Historically it has been found quite far north and was once quite common in New Jersey, but it is not found here any more.
- Another mosquito, the Asian tiger mosquito, or aedes albopictus, which is a close ally of the aegypti, tends to breed in the same areas. It is not quite as much of an indoor mosquito as the aedes aegypti, but there is some evidence that it can transmit Zika virus too.
Conlon says whether either of these breeds of mosquito will transmit the Zikja virus in the United States is really a matter of conjecture at this point. He says the question of whether Zika virus carrying mosquitoes or any other species begins to thrive in New Jersey or North America is really dependent upon the populus maintaining sanitary standards without having a lot of water containers around that are breeding mosquitoes.
"That is the real problem in Central and South America. A lot of containers that are breeding mosquitoes," Conlon said.
Conlon says although New Jersey has the best mosquito control in the world, residents still need to be proactive.
"Do not rely upon mosquito control districts to remove these container breeders by themselves," he said.
Health officials are most concerned about states along the Gulf states and in the South, where Zika-carrying mosquitoes may thrive on the swampy environment.
"This should be a warning sign to us that there are diseases still undiscovered out there that are within a seven-hour plane flight from New Jersey, and we are being continually challenged by people coming over the border, tourists, trade and things like that that can bring these diseases to us. So we just need to remain vigilant in that regard," Conlon said.
Joe Cutter is the afternoon news anchor on New Jersey 101.5.