Mobile is the rainiest city in America. That means there’s a lot of water runoff, and there’s also a lot of places where the water just pools.
You really couldn’t ask for better mosquito breeding grounds. So with Zika fears growing, how could it spread? For that answer, we went Auburn University, where Dr. Derrick Mathias is currently studying the transmission of disease from mosquitoes.
“The main thing I’m interested in understanding is why some species of mosquitoes transmit malaria parasites and others can’t,” said Dr. Derrick Mathias, Professor of Entomology, Auburn, University.
Zika research, for now, is still limited to few institutions because of potential for infected mosquitoes to escape. But typically the insect spreads the disease in the same manner.
“It has to be an infected traveler who gets bitten and then there’s an incubation period in the mosquito so it’ll take, that mosquito has to bite twice. It has to bite the infected traveler and has to live through the incubation period, and bite again.”
And disease spreads quickly in densely populated areas. But it all comes down to what type of mosquito is carrying what. One of them is the aedes aegypti species, it was formerly responsible for spreading yellow fever in the US.
“Historically it was here in the Southeast, now the tiger mosquito, it actually came in the 1980s, and it’s slowly displaced aedes aeegypti the yellow fever mosquito.”
And this invasive mosquito is much more aggressive, feeding on animals and people all throughout the day.
“Now the good thing about that is the tiger mosquito isn’t as efficient.”
That is as far as transmitting diseases.
We later followed Dr. Mathias from the lab to the outdoors. Just walking around a small creek bed, and a retention pond, it’s clear that mosquito activity is prevalent. Dr. Mathias collected one mosquito larva in the late stages of development.
“This is a pupa this would be an adult in a day or two.”
His best guest is that it might be a tiger mosquito. Despite the population of tiger mosquitoes, Mathias says the risk of an outbreak is low.
“I think the places in the United States that are most at risk are Southern Florida and then along the Texas border, Louisiana is at risk as well those are areas where the yellow fever mosquitoes still persist.”
And as the threat grows, experts expect the research spotlight to shine on the Zika virus.
Mathias recommends checking with CDC and local health departments for updates. He says because summer is also a busy season for travel, the threat could change.