Mosquitoes of the Culex quinquefasciatus species far outnumber their Aedes counterparts 20 to one, the institute noted.
Culex quinquefasciatus bearing the Zika virus were found in the northeastern city of Recife, where the epidemic hit the hardest.
The unpublished findings suggest that Brazil might need to change its response strategy to the virus, now more potentially contagious than before. The country will need to quickly consider its options, as more travelers arrive in anticipation of the Rio Olympics.
“It’s very bad news for Brazil,” said entomologist Constancia Ayres, who conducted the research. It was Ayres that urged officials to look into other mosquito species other than Aedes aegypti.
“We have a national program for controlling Aedes – but we have nothing for Culex – so if Culex is an important vector then we have to start from zero,” she said.
Brazil’s Ministry of Health responded to the announcement, insisting that Aedes aegypti remains the main vector of the virus. A spokesperson for the ministry told The Globe and Mail that the findings do not change anything, as the public-health response is relatively the same for all types of mosquitoes.
Ayres and other entomologists have disagreed with the ministry’s stance, insisting that Culex quinquefasciatus mosquitoes have slightly different behaviours than Aedes aegypti. For instance, while Aedes aegypti feed during the day, Culex quinquefasciatus bite at night. Also, while the former species breeds in clean water, the latter prefers stagnant water.
Notably, Ayres’ findings could have repercussions outside of Brazil, as the Culex quinquefasciatus species has a much wider range than Aedes—the latter only thriving in tropical and subtropical regions.
It is unknown how much this announcement would affect travel insurance premiums until the findings are verified and officially recognised by the Brazilian government, although it is prudent to assume that significant increases are to be expected.
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