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How county workers test mosquitoes for viruses like Zika

Posted at 5:31 PM, Aug 22, 2016
and last updated 2016-08-23 01:25:49-04

ST. DAVID, Ariz. (KGUN9-TV) -- Every night Dan DeBee sets up mosquito traps in rural parts of Cochise County.

Beebe is an environmental health specialist with the Cochise County Health and Social Services Department. On Monday DeBee set up by a trap by a pond in the St. David area. 

"It's a CO2 trap, it's designed to catch the specific the Culex species of mosquitoes," DeBee said.

The Culex mosquito can carry the West Nile Virus, DeBee says, and is one of about 12 species of mosquitoes found in Arizona. 

Depending on where the traps are set, DeBee might find hundreds of mosquitoes in the net. They will then be sent to the state health department office in Phoenix where they will be tested for West Nile.

The trapping and testing is normally done during peak mosquito season, DeBee says, which is July through October. It's a crucial part of preventing mosquito-borne illnesses like Zika.

"It's important so we can see the trends, and if and where the viruses are occurring in the county. Obviously we can't test every mosquito in the county at all times but it gives us data points as to what diseases are in the county and where they are at," said Ray Falkenberg with the Cochise County Health and Social Services Department.

Three people from Cochise County contracted Zika while traveling in Puerto Rico, Falkenberg said. The mosquito that carries Zika, Aedes aegypti, can be found in Arizona. However, Falkenberg says this year no mosquitoes in Cochise County have tested positive for Zika. 

It's been about two-and-a-half years since mosquitoes with West Nile were found in Cochise County, DeBee said.

Falkenberg encourages everyone to do what they can to prevent mosquito bites. Below are a number of tips:

- wear insecticide with DEET

- when outside wear long pants, long sleeves and socks so your skin is covered

- avoid going outside at dusk and dawn when mosquitos are active

- remove standing water from your home. Mosquitoes lay eggs in standing water, so it can be a breeding ground for the insects. Even a small amount of water, like what would fill up the cap of a soda bottle, is enough.

Here is more on how Zika is spread, and products you can use to prevent mosquito bites.