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Testing mosquitos for Zika virus to begin in Virginia

FILE - This 2006 file 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. The The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Tuesday,...
FILE - This 2006 file 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. The The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Tuesday,... (Copyright by WSLS - All rights reserved)

RICHMOND (WSLS 10) - Mosquitoes will soon be tested for Zika virus in certain parts of Virginia.

Virginia's Department of General Services' Division of Consolidated Laboratory Services (DCLS) is set to test mosquitoes for Zika virus in central and southeastern Virginia, Governor Terry McAuliffe announced today.

McAuliffe's announcement comes after the Virginia Department of Health reported that there have been 33 cases of Zika virus in Virginia residents associated with travel outside the United States as of Thursday, July 7.

While there have been no locally transmitted cases, the DCLS began testing people for Zika virus in April. If local transmission is detected, the addition of mosquito testing allows the lab to provide more information to state health officials.

"The surveillance of Zika cases in Virginia is critical to our ability to prepare for and provide treatment to people affected by this virus. This is why I established the Zika task force this past February," said McAuliffe. "Thus far, all Virginia Zika virus infections have been associated with travel abroad, but we are ramping up efforts in preparation for locally transmitted cases where a mosquito bites an infected person and then bites someone else. Early detection of the virus in local mosquitoes allows health officials to pinpoint our efforts to prevent the spread to others in the community. I applaud the efforts of our state and local public health officials who are working diligently to stop the spread of Zika, and we will continue aggressive actions to prevent the spread of this virus in Virginia."

The DCLS sent collection kits to 10 local mosquito control jurisdictions in central and southeastern Virginia last week so mosquitoes could be trapped and returned to the lab for testing. Molecular tests will be performed on up to 1,200 pools, each containing 50 mosquitoes, in order to determine if Zika virus is present in specific parts of the state. Results of the DCLS testing typically take one day.

There is no vaccine for Zika virus, which is carried by mosquitoes and is most threatening to pregnant women and their unborn children. Zika virus spreads primarily through the bite of an infected Aedes aegypti or Aedes albopictus mosquito, both of which are found in Virginia during mosquito season, which runs from May 1 through October 31. The virus also can be spread during sexual intercourse with a male partner or from mother to her unborn child, which could cause birth defects.