Washington

Zika mosquito habitats remain far from Washington

An Aedes aegypti mosquito is photographed through a microscope at the Fiocruz institute in Recife, Pernambuco state, Brazil, Wednesday, Jan. 27, 2016. The mosquito is a vector for the proliferation of the Zika virus currently spreading throughout Latin America. New figures from Brazil's Health Ministry show that the Zika virus outbreak has not caused as many confirmed cases of a rare brain defect as first feared.
An Aedes aegypti mosquito is photographed through a microscope at the Fiocruz institute in Recife, Pernambuco state, Brazil, Wednesday, Jan. 27, 2016. The mosquito is a vector for the proliferation of the Zika virus currently spreading throughout Latin America. New figures from Brazil's Health Ministry show that the Zika virus outbreak has not caused as many confirmed cases of a rare brain defect as first feared. AP

Neither of the two types of mosquitoes believed capable of spreading the Zika virus lives in Washington state or any of its neighbors, so state residents’ biggest risk of contracting it remains infection during travel elsewhere, a state entomologist said Thursday.

Although Department of Health officials have identified more than 40 species of mosquitoes that live in the state, the Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus have predominantly southeastern habitats in the United States and have not established themselves in the Pacific Northwest, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The Zika outbreak has been spread by the Aedes aegypti, which so far has not established itself much beyond the warmest parts of the country.

The Aedes albopictus, whose spread as far north as Ohio and New Jersey makes it seem hardier, also is thought capable of carrying the virus but hasn’t been definitively linked to it yet.

That species, unlike the other one, does have a Washington history. Its larvae were discovered in a bamboo shipment to the state in 1985 and were immediately destroyed .

Liz Dykstra, a public health entomologist with the department, noted that the documented presence of both species in California could mean more future spread is possible, especially for the more cold-tolerant Aedes albopictus.

“There’s a concern,” she said. “If it did get into Washington and was not stopped at the border, so to speak, I have a feeling it could get established here, especially in Western Washington, because it has a mild climate.”

Derrick Nunnally: 253-597-8693, @dcnunnally

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