They are not Nobel Prize winners or even official scientists. The federal and local governments are now recruiting citizen-scientists to help stop the spread of the Zika virus, and this includes kids.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture is launching a nationwide experiment called The Invasive Mosquito Project, encouraging kids to do their part by collecting mosquito eggs and uploading data to an online map.
“We can’t everywhere at once,” Megan Caldwell, with San Mateo County. “These mosquitoes an breed in amounts of water as small as a discarded bottle cap, so for us to be able to eliminate all those sources of water just isn’t possible. Having students and the public help us out is the only way to keep invasive mosquitoes out of our county.”
This fall, San Mateo County’s Mosquito and Vector Control District will debut a similar field education program, asking school kids to trap mosquito eggs using a simple device: a plastic cup full of water, and a stick.
“Basically, [Aedes Aegypti] fly in here, lay their eggs – they lay single eggs. And they attach themselves to this tongue depressor, and we check it weekly,” Casey Stevenson, field supervisor for San Mateo County Mosquito and Vector Control District.
Field agents have been going door-to-door since 2013, when Aedes Aegypti, the mosquito which can potentially carry Zika, was first discovered in Menlo Park.
There have been several cases of Zika in the Bay Area, but no transmissions through mosquitoes.
Caldwell says it has been one year since San Mateo County has found Aedes Aegypti, but it’s too soon to say the potentially Zika-carrying mosquito species has been eradicated.
“Before there was Zika, there was Chikungunya. Before there was Chikungunya, there was Dengue. Before there was Dengue, there was Yellow Fever,” Caldwell said. “There’s always going to be a disease spread by these invasive mosquitos, and we don’t know what’s going to be after Zika.”