When the Zika epidemic hit tropical and subtropical regions in the Americas back in 2015, the disease was unknown to virtually all people living in the US. Between 2015 and 2017, 325 people in Texas had reportedly contracted Zika, but most of these cases were acquired overseas or through sexual transmission. Two people in Texas contracted Zika locally in the state in 2017, and while no additional cases have been reported in the US since then, experts state that it is only a matter of time before another Zika epidemic occurs in the country. Mosquito-borne diseases are unpredictable, but one thing is for sure, when another outbreak of the Zika virus, or any mosquito-borne disease occurs, Texas residents will be particularly vulnerable.
Since 2004, the number of mosquito-borne disease cases in Texas more than tripled, with the most common diseases being the West Nile virus, the Zika virus, and encephalitic diseases. However, researchers regularly find several mosquito specimens infected with dengue, malaria and chikungunya in the state. There is a high number of disease-carrying mosquito species in Central Texas where the West Nile virus is the most frequently contracted mosquito-borne disease. In Travis County, more than 170 West Nile cases have been reported since 2007. For more than a decade, Waco’s mosquito surveillance program has aimed to protect residents from contacting mosquito-borne diseases by forecasting the seasonal abundance of mosquitoes.
According to Baylor biologist Dr. Cheolho Sim, there are two mosquito seasons in Waco, the first of which occurs during the spring right before summer (May and June), and the second occurs right after summer (September and October). Researchers recently discovered a mosquito species of the Psorophora genus breeding in Waco for the first time in history. This species is known to transmit eastern equine encephalitis to humans, and it is unique for not requiring water for the purpose of breeding; instead, this new mosquito species can breed in soil. This new species is likely to facilitate the spread of disease in Waco, but it is not considered as dangerous as Culex and Aedes species. Experts consider Waco to be among the 50 most mosquito-heavy cities in the US, and residents are strongly advised to wear insect repellent containing DEET or Picaridin before spending time outdoors.
Do you take precautions to avoid mosquito bites?