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7.19.2019

Mosquitoes Now a Year-Round Problem in Miami-Dade County, According to Collaborative Research Study

Mosquitoes that can transmit dangerous viruses are now a year-round threat to Miami-Dade County, according to a new study led by University of Miami Miller School of Medicine public health researchers who collaborated with the county’s Mosquito Control Division.

Together the research team examined more than two years of data from Miami-Dade’s mosquito surveillance program following the 2016 Zika virus outbreak. “We found 41 species of mosquitoes in abundance, including Aedes aegypti, which can transmit viral diseases like Zika, dengue fever and chikungunya,” said André Wilke, Ph.D., post-doctoral associate in the Division of Environment & Public Health in the Department of Public Health Sciences. “These species were present in high numbers year round, indicating there is no longer a summer ‘mosquito season’ here.”

Dr. Wilke was the lead author of the study, “Community Composition and Year-Round Abundance of Vector Species of Mosquitoes Make Miami-Dade County, Florida a Receptive Gateway for Arbovirus Entry to the United States,” published in June in Nature/Scientific Reports.

“Our results also show that the five mosquito species that may carry these viruses, including Aedes aegypti and Culex quinquefasciatus, are well adapted to urban environments,” said study co-author John C. Beier, Sc.D., professor and chief of the Division of Environment & Public Health.

Dr. Beier said the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention supports the ongoing collaboration between the Miller School and the Miami-Dade County Mosquito Control Division. “Establishing a state-of-the-art surveillance system provides a foundation to inform and guide public health decision-making.”

Study co-author Chalmers Vasquez, director of research for Miami-Dade County Mosquito Control, said a total of 2.7 million mosquitoes were collected from August 2016 to November 2018 in 191 traps. “We covered the entire county with an emphasis on Miami Beach and Wynwood, as well as Little River,” he said. “These communities experienced locally transmitted Zika cases in 2016, and have large numbers of visitors, who may bring in mosquito-borne arborviruses from other countries.”

Vasquez said every week samples of trapped mosquitoes are sent to state and federal laboratories for viral testing and screening. To date, there have been no indications of active local transmission.

But the high volume of international air travel from the Caribbean region and Latin America to Miami substantially increases the risk of introduction of arboviruses to the U.S., said the researchers. “Continued surveillance, public education, environmental ordinance, and active control of mosquito populations are critical for the prevention of viral outbreaks,” they concluded.

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