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Invasive mosquito with potential to spread disease found in Florida

Wednesday, March 17th 2021, 5:12 pm - Scientists are keeping a close eye on the mosquito.

A new invasive species of mosquito with the potential to transfer animal diseases to humans has been found in Florida, scientists said in a new paper appearing in the Journal of Medical Entomology.

The species, called Aedes scapularis, was reported as being endemic in Florida's Miami-Dade and Broward counties.

Climate change, international travel, and global trade contribute to the spread of invasive species. Experts say 10 species of non-native mosquitoes have been found in Florida since the year 2000, and they believe more are coming.

mosquito - Lawrence Reeves, UF-IFAS An image of Aedes scapularis. Courtesy: Lawrence Reeves UF/IFAS

INFECTED WITH DISEASES

In Brazil the mosquitoes have been documented carrying several viruses, including yellow fever, but it's not clear if they can spread the disease, NPR says.

But because the mosquito feeds on both wildlife and humans, it presents the potential for a spillover event, which occurs when a virus overcomes several roadblocks and becomes feasible in another species. Experts say COVID-19 is an example of a spillover event, presumed to have transferred from bats to humans.

"If you end up with a species that's capable of transmitting to [birds] and likes to also bite humans, that's the prime condition for a spillover event," Lindsay Campbell, an entomologist in Florida, told NPR.

Experts are monitoring the spread of the species, which has been found in at least 16 Florida counties and in parts of Texas and the Gulf Coast -- regions with environments that are "highly suitable" to them, ABC News says.

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