PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — Concerns over the Zika virus have been growing amongst Rhode Islanders after the state announced its first case on Tuesday, but a local mosquito expert says not to worry.
Dr. Alan Gettman, the mosquito abatement coordinator for the Department of Environmental Management, says that while we have 46 species of mosquitoes in Rhode Island – none are capable of carrying the virus.
Dr. Gettman studies mosquitoes for a living and said Wednesday the main species that’s been transmitting Zika can’t survive in Southern New England.
“The big culprit that everyone’s working on is Aedes Aegypti, and it is absolutely not here at all,” he explained.
The Zika problem is limited to the tropics, according to Gettman. The man in his 60s who was diagnosed this week had recently traveled to Haiti, where there is active mosquito-borne transmission of the illness.
The health department urges anyone who is pregnant or considering becoming pregnant not to travel to those countries where Zika is active.
There’s another species, the Asian tiger mosquito, that Dr. Gettnan said could possibly transmit the virus. However, it’s not among the 46 local species and its northern limit is Pennsylvania.
“I’ve actually found a couple, but definitely not established. and it may or may not be capable of transmitting Zika,” Gettman said.
Despite there not being a risk of Zika virus, Gettman said people should still take precautions against mosquito bites since local species can transmit West Nile and EEE.
“People should reduce their exposure to mosquito bites and clean up their backyards so there aren’t containers holding water,” he added.
Gettman said mosquito season starts in Southern New England in mid-May.