The Main Stream

Jul 23, 2013 10:22 AM by Ryan Haarer

UA team track mosquito populations possibly carrying dengue

TUCSON- The National Institute of Health recently gave a team of researchers at the U of A 2.3 million dollars to track populations of the Aedes aegypti mosquito, known to carry a virus that causes dengue. It's an infection that can bring on high fever, joint pain, severe eye pain and possibly death.

With the recent rains those Aedes aegypti could be feeding on you here in Tucson. Lucky for you, Kasey Ernst an assistant professor at the College of Public Health says it's unlikely they'll be carrying dengue.

"Certainly the vector is here but so far we haven't had any reported cases which is what we are trying to examine, why there are no cases here despite having the vector and having dengue transmission as far north as Hermosillo in Sonora, Mexico."

In 2010 a dengue outbreak in Mexico killed almost 400 people. But, how high is the risk of dengue finding its way to Tucson?

"The risk is fairly good. But, one of the things that is interesting is that there is no dengue transmission reported in Nogales, Sonora either. So we think there may be things associated with the climate, perhaps it's too hot and the mosquitoes aren't living long enough to transmit disease here," Ernst said.

A climate change might not be the only factor in keeping the bugs at bay. In trying to determine where geographically the dengue stops, the team works in the field and in the lab to examine human interactions, population density and the age of the mosquitoes.

"We're also going to be investigating multiple climate change scenarios to see if in the future, as the climate changes, are we going to be more likely to see dengue in this area."

It appears we in Tucson are clear for now, but everyone should take precautions. West Nile is always a threat. Cover your skin as much as possible especially if you know you'll be near mosquitoes. Invest in some repellent and avoid leaving standing water on your property.

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