GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — While most do everything they can to stay away from mosquitoes, Kati Korp gets as close to them as possible.
Sitting behind a microscope, Korp studies about a thousand mosquitoes every day. Using tweezers, she separates each one by sex and by type specifically looking for the Aedes mosquito, the kind of mosquito known to carry the Zika virus.
“The Aedes is dark and it has stripes on it so it’s very distinctive. We only find a few per test,” Korp explained.
None of those found have been the specific type of Aedes mosquito that carries Zika.
“It’s a disease that we don’t know a ton about,” Kent County Sanitarian Brendan Earl said of Zika. “We’re just learning the effects it could have an effect on pregnant women, ways it can be transmitted. So it’s really sort of an unknown.”
Zika has been linked to serious birth defects when contracted by pregnant women.
The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services provided the Kent County Health Department with two traps specifically designed to attract the Aedes Albopictus and Aedes Aegypti species of mosquito. They’re non-native to West Michigan and health officials say it’s “highly unlikely that these species will surface in Kent County.” However, climate change could expand their range.
“In the future, their range may increase. That’s why the Zika surveillance is important so that we know as soon as possible when these non-native species are here and there’s a real possibility that somebody in Michigan could contract Zika from a mosquito,” Earl said.
The data collected by the Kent County Health Department will be used for a map to determine the range of the species. Health officials say they have been found as close as Ohio and Indiana.
The health department is also testing mosquitoes for West Nile virus, which has been known to be carried by mosquitoes in Michigan.