Can mosquitoes spread coronavirus?

Can mosquitoes spread the coronavirus?

It's an understandable concern as the mosquitoes begin to emerge on the warmer days in Michigan.

The good news is no -- there is no evidence that mosquitoes can transmit the virus.

“Mosquitoes do not carry coronavirus,” said Dr. Ned Walker, a professor of microbiology and entomology at Michigan State University. “The coronavirus just doesn’t infect mosquitoes at all. It doesn’t have the capacity to make the infection in the mosquito, and so for that reason if it can’t participate in that kind of a transmission cycle.”

That's consistent with other related viruses.

"SARS and MERS which are also coronaviruses are not carried by mosquitoes either," explained Walker.

But Walker cautions, there are still other reasons to protect yourself from mosquito bites.

"We do have mosquito-borne diseases in Michigan, including viruses that can cause severe infection and disease in people and animals," said Walker.

Those include West Nile Virus and Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE).

Last summer, an outbreak of EEE killed six people in Michigan and severely impacted three others.

Walker expects that threat to continue this summer.

"The behavior of these episodes is such that if we have it in one year, we tend to have it again in the following year and perhaps even the second year after that. So, there is that concern," said Walker.

Walker says weather conditions over the winter were favorable for many species of mosquitoes in Michigan.

"We'll have a high mosquito summer, and we need to keep our vigilance up for that reason," said Walker.

We asked Walker if there was any concern that efforts to fight COVID-19 in Michigan could result in less surveillance of mosquito-borne illnesses this year.

Walker said no, if anything, this situation highlights the importance of such efforts.

"The COVID episode is certainly showing us that if we have a disease outbreak of this scope and magnitude, the economic impacts are severe. And so there is a justification at the economic level that having strong public health surveillance, ability to respond, capacity to do testing quickly, to engage across different sectors fast, and without having a lot of impediments to that kind of rapid activity, and to allow public officials who are experts in these areas to be able to take charge and do what we need to do," said Walker. "We really need to understand that this is a learning opportunity for anything in the future that might happen that we have to react in a similar way. And so I think those messages apply across to our somewhat smaller scale but really still important mosquito-borne problems too."

The bottom-line, there is no evidence to suggest that mosquitoes have any capacity to carry the coronavirus, but it is still critical to protect yourself from mosquito bites and do everything you can to reduce mosquito populations around your property.

About the Authors:

Dr. McGeorge can be seen on Local 4 News helping Metro Detroiters with health concerns when he isn't helping save lives in the emergency room at Henry Ford Hospital.