“Zika Is the Next Front in the Mosquito Wars”
The Aedes aegypti mosquito weighs less than a grain of rice, lives only a few weeks, and doesn’t stray more than 100 yards from where it hatches. For a creature of such limited scope, it has an outsize influence on human health and global commerce. In 1793 a mosquito-carried epidemic of yellow fever in Philadelphia shut down trade and killed a 10th of the city’s residents. A century later, the same disease foiled France’s effort to build a canal across Panama.
Aedes aegypti is now spreading the Zika virus through Latin America. The virus, detected in Brazil for the first time last May, is suspected of causing an increase in babies born with abnormally small heads, a serious birth defect known as microcephaly. With no vaccine or cure for Zika, “the most effective protective measures are the control of mosquito populations and the prevention of mosquito bites,” Margaret Chan, director-general of the World Health Organization, told reporters on Feb. 1. Officials in Texas on Feb. 2 identified a case of sexual transmission of the disease.