Invasive species of mosquito that could transmit diseases from animals to people found in Florida

The Aedes scapularis feeds on both wildlife and humans.

March 16, 2021, 2:12 PM

A new invasive species of mosquito that has the potential to transfer diseases from animals to humans has been found in Florida.

The species, Aedes scapularis, was predominately found in South and Central America, as well as the Caribbean islands, but it recently became established in South Florida for the first time, according to a study published in the journal Insects, part of the Multidisciplinary Digital Publishing Institute.

PHOTO: Scientists have found Aedes scapularis mosquitoes near Everglades National Park in Florida.
Scientists have found Aedes scapularis mosquitoes near Everglades National Park in Florida.
Lawrence Reeves/University of Florida

Aedes scapularis is known to transmit pathogens and has potential public health implications for the Sunshine State, according to the study. It could present the dispersal and establishment of diseases from other countries into the U.S., scientists said.

Scientists are now tracking the species see how it spreads throughout the state, as at least 16 counties in Florida, as well as parts Texas and along the Gulf Coast, have been predicted to be "highly suitable" for it to thrive.

PHOTO: Waterways wind through the Everglades National Park in Florida, in an undated stock photo.
Waterways wind through the Everglades National Park in Florida, in an undated stock photo.
STOCK PHOTO/Getty Images

In Brazil, the mosquitos have been found to be infected with diseases such as the yellow fever virus and the Venezuelan equine encephalitis virus.

The mosquito feeds on both animals and humans, posing the possibility of a spillover event, which involves a virus overcoming barriers to become feasible in another species. Researchers believe the COVID-19 pandemic is the result of a spillover event, after the virus was reportedly transferred from bats to humans.

PHOTO: Dr. Lawrence Reeves from the University of Florida collected Aedes scapularis mosquitoes near Everglades National Park in Florida.
Dr. Lawrence Reeves from the University of Florida collected Aedes scapularis mosquitoes near Everglades National Park in Florida.
Lawrence Reeves/UFL

Climate change also plays a factor, scientists said. As the global temperature warms, the geographical area where the species can thrive may increase, creating a larger area in which to spread disease.

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