Missing puzzle piece to solve Zika problem found in St. Augustine, group says

ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. – St. Johns County mosquito experts say they found the piece needed to solve the puzzle of how to eliminate the Zika virus as a threat.

A small group of residents attended a public meeting in St. Augustine Tuesday night to learn about an idea presented by the Anastasia Mosquito Control District (AMCD).

They plan to eradicate the mosquito capable of carrying Zika virus, before the virus has a chance to arrive.

Russell Belshe, who lives in St. Augustine, asked plenty of questions at the meeting.

“I think the biggest concern was its not as bad as we’ve all seen and heard about the hype of the Zika virus,” said Belshe.

He said he got the answers he needed.

“Sounds like they’ve got a good start of getting the awareness out. You’ve gotta hit it on the ground. Sounds like they’ve got a good plan going,” said Belshe.

Christopher Bibbs with AMCD spent about an hour explaining the science and mission status of the Mosquito Control group.

”Questions are pretty predictable. What is Zika? How do I get it? How do I protect myself? And are other people who don’t live in this state at risk?” Bibbs said.

About 83 cases of Zika virus have been reported in Florida – all of them imported.

In St. Johns County, Bibbs says prevention could be very simple.

“This program is to remove a link associated with how we get the disease, which is the mosquito. If we can remove that puzzle piece, it’s no longer a problem,” he said.

The puzzle piece is found in relatively small part of downtown old St. Augustine and it’s in the only mosquito species Bibbs described as a significant vector of Zika virus, Aedes Aegypti, or the yellow fever mosquito.

That’s why Bibbs said they can wipe out the threat through treatments.

“An eradication program is normally not feasible because, as you know, mosquitoes are everywhere. We actually have 43 types of mosquitoes in this county. We’re only targeting this one because it is the one associated with Zika virus. And it’s only confined to a very small area, a few city blocks in St. Augustine, which means we have the ability to eradicate it. So we’re going to do so,” Bibbs said.

Mosquito Control wanted people in St. Augustine to know they’ll be working downtown, but it may not be as obvious as it has been in the past. “Fogging” with trucks is not as loud or visible.

At the same time, technicians will be working every affected property every week.

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