Government recruiting public to track mosquitos in wake of Zika

This 2006 photo provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows a female Aedes aegypti mosquito in the process of acquiring a blood meal from a human host.

AUSTIN (KXAN) — With fears of the Zika virus heightened, the U.S Department of Agriculture is working to get ahead of data collection.

They’re recruiting students, teachers and anyone else willing to help track mosquitoes. The Invasive Mosquito Project will help officials determine where invasive mosquito species, as well as native mosquito species, are spread across the country. This will help researchers define at-risk human and animal populations.

The only materials required to collect the data include plastic cups, brown or dark paper towel, water, tape and permanent marker. The project also includes power point presentations to help teachers each step of the way.

It’s recommended you wear mosquito repellent, and cover up your skin as much as possible.

“We’re desperate for data, need that data. It’s going to help us stay ahead of Zika,” said Dr. Tim Riedel, with the Freshman Research Initiative at UT Austin. He says he’s a big advocate of citizen science.

Dr. Riedel says the data collected could help identify mosquito species hot spots in the United States, letting people know where they’re at risk.

“We know aedes aegypti is a prime suspect, but there’s a lot of other species out there. Any information we can be gathering as fast as we can, as broadly as we can, is really going to help the situation if it turns into a serious situation,” said Riedel

When the project is done in a classroom setting, public health professionals will help confirm the mosquito identifications, providing nationwide surveillance on mosquito populations.

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