An invasive species of mosquito that can transmit diseases from animals to humans has been found in Florida.
The species of mosquito, known as Aedes scapularis, was known to be in Central and South America. It has also been recorded on several Caribbean islands.
According to a new study from the Multidisciplinary Digital Publishing Institute, however, the mosquito species has been found in southern Florida.
It was discovered near Everglades National Park in 2019, home to the largest tropical wilderness in the United States.
Pictured: The Aedes scapularis mosquito, which is quickly establishing itself in Florida
The top map shows where the growth of the species is sustainable (the most sustainable areas are in red), the bottom map shows the standard deviation for the model’s predictions
A 2020 follow-up study in the Journal of Medical Entomology revealed sightings of the mosquito in Miami-Dade County and Broward County, both in Florida.
Models from the most recent study show it will likely begin to spread north and move around the region, making its way to habitats suitable for its development.
This is expected to include at least 16 counties in Florida that are suitable, as well as areas along the Gulf Coast.
According to ABC News, the same species of mosquito in Brazil was sometimes found to be infected with yellow fever or the Venezuelan equine encephalitis virus.
Yellow fever, for which there is a vaccine, can cause fever, chills, nausea, and headaches, among other symptoms.
Pictured: A medic administering a yellow fever vaccine. The Aedes scapularis mosquito has been shown to be able to transmit yellow fever in Brazil previously
There is no treatment for yellow fever, which swept through the United States multiple times in the 18th and 19th centuries.
VIRUSES LINKED TO AEDES SCAPULARIS
The Aedes scapularis mosquito is believed to have spread at least two viruses in the past, and it’s a possible vector for other viruses:
-Yellow fever virus
-Venezuelan equine encephalitis virus
-Rocio encephalitis virus
Source: Journal of Medical Entomology
The World Health Organization reports that 262 people died of yellow fever in Brazil from December 2016 to May 2017, 483 people died from December 2017 to May 2018, and at least eight people died from December 2018 to January 2019.
The Venezuelan equine encephalitis virus can be fatal for donkeys, horses, and zebras, but it typically only gives humans flu-like symptoms.
Florida is no stranger to viruses caused by mosquitoes, with previous outbreaks of dengue virus and, more recently, Zika virus.
There were almost 6,000 cases of the Zika virus in the United States during the epidemic that lasted from 2015 to 2016.
The mosquito reportedly likes to go indoors and is capable of feeding both on birds and on people.
The authors of the study point to changes in the climate as a potential reason for the developing arrival and spread of Aedes scapularis in the southern part of the United States.
Mosquito control programs in Florida that trap and monitor mosquitoes will be essential for learning more about Aedes scapularis.
Lawrence Reeves, another author of the study, is sounding the alarm on more invasive mosquito species making their way to the United States.
‘There’s one in particular right now that a lot of people are worrying about, Aedes vittatus, [which] is kind of a vector for pretty much everything we’re worried about: dengue, chikungunya, Zika.’
That mosquito hasn’t made it to the United States yet, but it has been found in Cuba.