The species of mosquito that can carry the Zika virus has been found in Nebraska for the first time, state health officials said Tuesday.
The mosquitoes, Aedes aegypti, were collected in York County, about 100 miles west of Omaha, as part of state and local health departments’ efforts to trap, track and monitor the number of West Nile-carrying mosquitoes that are present in Nebraska communities.
The species is common in more tropical areas where it transmits not only Zika virus but also chikungunya, dengue and yellow fevers.
Dr. Tom Safranek, Nebraska’s state epidemiologist, said state officials have not yet tested the insects for the viruses that cause those illnesses.
However, he said it’s unlikely that the mosquitoes will be infected with the viruses. To transmit them, the mosquitoes would have to bite a person who is currently infected and then bite an uninfected person. None of the diseases are endemic to Nebraska. Only a person who had recently traveled to such areas would be likely to be infected.
This type of mosquito bites primarily during the daytime and feeds only on people. And it can’t fly very far, only about 500 feet.
“I think it’s unlikely we’ll find any of these viruses in any of these mosquitoes,” he said.
Health officials, in fact, were surprised to find the mosquitoes at all, Safranek said. They’ve been setting traps for mosquitoes for some time in about 140 locations around the state. Initially, they found three or four of the Zika-carrying species in traps meant for West Nile-carrying mosquitoes. They went back and set traps that target Aedes aegypti and netted about 40.