MN officials checking to see if Zika-carrying mosquitoes are living here - Bring Me The News

MN officials checking to see if Zika-carrying mosquitoes are living here

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 (Photo: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Flickr)

(Photo: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Flickr)

President Barack Obama wants you to dump out your bird baths.

At a news conference Thursday, the president addressed the ongoing fight to prevent the spread of the Zika virus after several local transmissions of it were confirmed in Florida this week, saying there "will certainly be more."

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He doesn't expect a widespread outbreak like the one seen in Brazil, but Obama is encouraging people to understand what they can do to help the mosquito population by following the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggestions.

The CDC encourages people to search their yard once a week and dump out anything that could hold water (mosquitoes lay their eggs in small pockets of water), like bird baths, tires, buckets, toys, flower pot saucers or trash containers.

The president is also asking Congress to provide additional funding to help combat the virus,according to the Wall Street Journal, because "the money we need to fight Zika is rapidly running out."

As of Aug. 3, the CDC's website shows 1,825 Zika cases have been reported in the United States – six were acquired locally. Twenty-nine Minnesotans have contracted the virus while traveling, the website notes.

Mosquito surveying in MN

Aedes albopictus, also known as the Asian tiger mosquito, is one of two known carries of Zika virus. And they have been known to live in southern Minnesota in the past.

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That's why the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) is surveying the area to see if any have taken up residence in the state – although officials don't think it's very likely.

Doug Schultz, an information officer with MDH, told BringMeTheNews the agency has planned to look for Asian tiger mosquitoes since Zika became a concern in the western hemisphere.

They're usually only found in Minnesota when they're transported into the state – they sometimes hitch a ride on trucks or other commercial equipment, Schultz explains.

And if they do get here, Minnesota's winters are usually harsh enough to kill the insects and their larvae, state epidemiologist Dave Neitzel told MPR News.

But health officials want to make sure there aren't any in Minnesota, so they're checking high traffic areas like parks and commercial areas where they're more likely to be found, Schultz says.

MDH officials were in Albert Lea last week, the Worthington area on Thursday and have plans to visit Winona, Rochester, Mankato and several other cities in southern Minnesota.

As for the other type of mosquito known to carry Zika, they are a strictly tropical mosquito that has never been found in Minnesota, Schultz says.

Minnesota gets federal funding

Minnesota was among the states to get federal funding to help track and report microcephaly – a brain defect that can occur in newborns of mothers who contract Zika virus.

The state got $200,000 towards the effort, the CDC announced Tuesday, calling them a "stopgap diverted from other public health resources until Zika funds are provided by Congress."

In a statement to BringMeTheNews, the Minnesota Department of Health said the additional funding will help the agency's "birth defects monitoring and analysis unit stay in contact with doctors and learn before babies are born whether they appear at risk for defects."

MDH hopes to improve how quickly it can identify kids who might have microcephaly, and also hopes to work with families of newborns who have the defect to get them the appropriate services right away because early intervention can help greatly improve the outcome for babies, the statement adds.

The National Institutes of Health also said this week it is testing a vaccine that could prevent Zika virus infection.

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