MANKATO, Minn – 1/29/16
Ahren Backman | Afternoon Reporter
A professor of biology at Minnesota State University, Mankato said the mosquitoes that carry the Zika virus are not likely to make their way this far north come summertime. Dr. Allison Land, assistant professor of biology, said two types of mosquitoes carry the virus called aedes aegypti and aedes albopictus. These species are not resilient enough to live through our winters.
“People in the east and south of us in the United States have them, and then people further south into South and Central America those mosquitoes are also found there. So, where we as Minnesotans need to be concerned is when we are traveling to warmer places, but where these Minnesota winters only make us stronger and kills the mosquitoes, so they can’t live here.
The Zika virus is not only transferable through mosquitoes, Land said person to person infection is difficult but probably possible.
“The person would need to have a very…very high viral load, so they would need to be really really sick, and then it would need to be some sort of fluid that they would be exchanging with another person. I think there was one example where they found it in seman, they don’t know if it was sexually transmitted, but it was present in that bodily fluid. This is not the kind of virus that can be transmitted by respiratory means.”
Concerns over the normally minor symptoms of the Zika virus have increased recently, because of its correlation with the birth defect, microcephaly, where babies are born with an unusually small head. Land was quick to point out that none of the microcephaly cases have been confirmed to be caused by the the Zika virus so far.
“People are using the word associated with birth defects, because we don’t know for sure, and it might be that there is some other factor involved, it could be that this is the first time that it has hit a large enough population that you can see something like a very rare effect. You know and we are talking about the population of Brazil, and we are talking about 4,000 individuals with birth defects, that is a very small percent of the normal birth, and so if you looked at the Zika Virus in a smaller population you might be not be able to see something that is happening that rarely. It is probably just that this is the first time Zika has found a really large vulnerable population.”
In the face of growing fears over the Zika virus the race to discover a vaccine is on. Reuters published an informative article on that story January 29th.