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USM professor studies the Zika virus

Hattiesburg, Miss. - The Zika virus has made its way to America and surrounding areas of the Southeast.

And one Southern Miss professor is conducting research about the insect that carries the virus.

USM professor, Dr. Donald Yee said, "That mosquito is Aedes aegypti, the yellow fever mosquito. Over the last 30 years, this animal went extinct from the Southeastern United States. But is thought to be rebounding in a few places in the Southeast, along the Gulf Coast."

But there's more than one mosquito that's capable of spreading the Zika virus and other diseases.

Yee said "one that we have quite commonly here in the Hattiesburg area and in Mississippi is the Asian tiger mosquito."

The Asian tiger mosquito is black and has white stripes on its body. But there is a major difference between this mosquito and the Aedes aegypti.

Yee said "the Asian tiger mosquito tends to be less associated with people and Aedes aegypti will literally hang out in your home if you let it. And that's why it's so important as a vector for things like Zika is because it's often affiliated more closely with human beings."

Yee said that people should wear a repellent and wear long pants and long sleeves to try to avoid being bit by a mosquito.

Yee said that both the Asian tiger and the yellow fever mosquito normally are daytime biters.

Yee said, "to help eliminate the mosquito, you can reduce standing water, so kiddy pools in the backyard that aren't being used anymore, bird baths, you know empty them out once a week. The other one people don't really realize too is if you have gutters in your house that are stocked up, that will hold water and they will breed in those locations."

Yee said he and the State Health Department will be studying the ecology of the yellow fever mosquito and will officially will begin research in May.

The plan is to finish all of the research by August.



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