Polk County sets out traps to monitor Zika-carrying mosquitos

Traps have been placed in areas where there is a lot of standing water.

POLK COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) – Ten traps have been placed around Polk County by mosquito control crews in an effort to control the spread of the Zika virus. The traps are baited with carbon dioxide and a human-like scent, which attracts the specific mosquitoes known to carry Zika.

So far, traps have been placed in areas where there is a lot of standing water, such as cemeteries, landfills and junkyards, as well as areas where suspected cases are being investigated.

“We’re taking it very serious. A big part of our operation here is cooperation and coordination with the health department. They feed us whatever when they have a suspected case and our mosquito control unit jumps right on it,” said Jeff Spence, Polk County’s director of parks and natural resources. “They are here; we have caught them in our traps. We know they exist.”

For the past two weeks crews has been sampling cemeteries, particularly the flower vases placed on graves, which often collect water. They are looking for signs that the mosquitoes are breeding – and trying to stop them.

“That’s where you’re going to find a lot of containers in cemeteries. They have the vases where you put the flowers; that accumulates water. You have excellent breeding grounds for the mosquitoes that cause Zika,” Polk County Mosquito Control Director Carl Boohene said.

The Zika virus is transmitted to people primarily through the bite of an infected Aedes species mosquito. Both A. aegypti and A. albopictus mosquitoes can transmit the virus. Both species are found in Florida.

“It’s very important for us to know if they’re here, how much, how large the population is, because those are the factors for us getting local transmission. They are here all the time. It just takes one person to get bitten by the mosquito. If that mosquito happens to survive and bites another person, then we have our first local transmission,” Boohene said.

Six travel-related Zika cases have been reported in Polk County. Zika can also be transmitted through sex.

Meanwhile, Florida health officials in Miami-Dade County are testing mosquitoes for Zika to confirm whether a woman with the virus could be the first person infected directly by a mosquito bite in the continental United States.

“It’s definitely concerning for us,” Boohene said.

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