RTP scientists aid in the fight against Zika virus

RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK, N.C. (WNCN) – The fight to kill disease-carrying mosquitoes has intensified with the recent surge in Zika virus cases and the virus’s link to deadly birth defects.

Local scientists are aiding in that fight.

At their lab in Research Triangle Park, Bayer scientists work directly with the types of mosquitoes that carry Dengue, Chikungunya and Zika virus.

“Mosquitoes are the deadliest animals on the planet. Every year one million people die because of vector-borne disease,” explained Kurt Vandock, a senior scientist for Bayer.

The lab has mosquito larvae, as well as full grown mosquitoes.

“We’re focused on delivering new products, new solutions to better control mosquitoes,” said Vandock.

Vandock placed several live mosquitoes on a tile covered with a mosquito control chemical and within 10-15 minutes, all the mosquitoes died.

Vandock and other scientist are also working to stop the spread of Zika in parts of the world where it’s being transmitted locally.

He recently returned from Puerto Rico.

“We helped by providing education and outreach. We worked with public health authorities. We worked with them on how to eliminate these mosquitoes that are making people very sick,” he said.

Vandock said Bayer’s most recent product is designed to have as little impact as possible on the environment.

“The EPA’s granted it reduced risk status and it represents the newest innovation for mosquito control,” he said.

While we haven’t seen any cases of mosquitoes carrying the Zika virus in the continental U.S., scientists say it’s important to be ready.

“It’s important to balance public awareness and education with a proactive approach,” said Vandock. “We should monitor. we should follow the disease. We should be educated about it and be ready to respond if needed .”

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