Sarasota County now has specialized lab to test mosquitos for zika virus

Now mosquito control can detect zika in hours instead of days

SARASOTA, Fla. (WFLA) — Sarasota County is one of the first in the state to have a specialized lab to detect the zika virus.

Sarasota County mosquito management has just completed its molecular biology lab and is now doing tests.

In the past, if mosquito management wanted to confirm if a mosquito had the zika virus, they had to send in samples to state officials and wait a few days for confirmation. Now with this new lab, they can have the answer in two hours.

“What we do here is provide a public health function that’s the main purpose of mosquito control, they’re disease carriers,” said Matt Smith, Sarasota County Mosquito Management Director.

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“Every day that goes by when we’re waiting on a sample to get processed or confirmation that there’s disease in it is a day we waste that we could be carrying out control activities,” Smith added.

The $65,000 lab takes up an entire room. The department works in tandem with state health officials.

If the state learns that a Sarasota County resident has contracted zika, then mosquito management is contacted. They will catch mosquitoes near the person’s residence.Once the samples are brought to the lab, they are broken down and analyzed for the virus.

By having confirmation in a matter of hours instead of weeks, the department will be better able to protect the public.

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“Knowing with great sensitivity are there diseases present, where are they and doing it quickly enough so you can move in, wipe out the mosquitoes and prevent the diseases from being spread to humans. It’s a public health mission,” said Smith.

The lab is also able to quickly detect other diseases like the West Nile Virus, Chikungunya Virus and other new diseases that could appear in the future.

“The public health benefit that we’re gonna get from it is immeasurable,” said Smith.

Check out the Florida Zika Virus Tracker provides commenting to allow for constructive discussion on the stories we cover. In order to comment here, you acknowledge you have read and agreed to our Terms of Service. Commenters who violate these terms, including use of vulgar language or racial slurs, will be banned. Please be respectful of the opinions of others and keep the conversation on topic and civil. If you see an inappropriate comment, please flag it for our moderators to review.

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