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Will Zika Spread North Before Winter? Because Winter Is Coming

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Summer is nearly over, if you can believe it. And with the end of summer comes... well, those of us northerners know what's coming next. We are all about to get duped by autumn colors and bonfires into feeling hopeful about the next few months. And then the snow will fall, and that's when we remember. Oh yes, winter. While some people might be excited to see the end of summer, especially with the Zika fear spreading, experts are looking into whether or not Zika will spread north before winter hits, or if it will die out slowly with the cooler months.

The bad news is, a new study has found that the Aedes Aegypti variety of mosquito responsible for the spread of the Zika virus, could potentially be passed down through the female of the species through their eggs. Which means that the end of the warm weather (when mosquitoes always flourish) will not necessarily mean the end of the spread of the virus. According to researcher Robert Tesh, the chair of the pathology department of the University of Texas Medical Branch:

While previous research indicated that the only way mosquitoes could spread the virus was through the bite of an infected adult Aedes mosquito, the study conducted by the UTMB found that an infected female mosquito passed the infection along to her offspring at a rate of one in 290, according to Bloomberg.

ROSLAN RAHMAN/AFP/Getty Images
Residents walk to work past a public service announcement banner against the spread of Aedes mosquitoes, a carrier for the Zika virus, at a residential block at Aljunied Crescent neighbourhood in Singapore on August 29, 2016. Singapore on August 28 confirmed 41 locally transmitted cases of the Zika virus, which can cause deformities in unborn babies, and said more infections are likely. / AFP / ROSLAN RAHMAN (Photo credit should read ROSLAN RAHMAN/AFP/Getty Images)

Tesh acknowledged that a vertical transmission rate (which refers to the transmission of the virus from one generation to the next) of one in 290 might be relatively low, and also conceded that the laboratory study might not translate into results in the real world. But he did feel the vertical transmission would probably take place. “This probably does occur in nature,” he said.

Tesh also brought up the issue of trying to kill the mosquito larvae that could spread the virus next summer. Spraying for mosquitoes, which frequently kills adults, does not work on eggs. And then there is their size, of course.

“They’re so tiny,” Tesh said, “if they’re on a dark surface, you won’t see them.”

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GUANGZHOU, CHINA - JUNE 22: Mosquito larvae is seen as male and female are separated in the Mass Production Facility in the lab at the Sun Yat-Sen University-Michigan University Joint Center of Vector Control for Tropical Disease on June 22, 2016 in Guangzhou, China. Considered the world's largest mosquito factory, the laboratory raises millions of male mosquitos for research that could prove key to the race to prevent the spread of Zika virus. The lab's mosquitos are infected with a strain of Wolbachia pipientis, a common bacterium shown to inhibit Zika and related viruses including dengue fever. Researchers release the infected mosquitos at nearby Shazai island to mate with wild females who then inherit the Wolbachia bacterium which prevents the proper fertilization of her eggs. The results so far are hopeful: After a year of research and field trials on the island, the lab claims there is 99% suppression of the population of Aedes albopictus or Asia tiger mosquito, the type known to carry Zika virus. Researchers believe if their method proves successful, it could be applied on a wider scale to eradicate virus-carrying mosquitos in Zika-affected areas around the world. The project is an international non-profit collaboration lead by Professor Xi Zhiyong, director of the Sun Yat-Sen University-Michigan University Joint Center of Vector Control for Tropical Disease with support from various levels of China's government and other organizations. (Photo by Kevin Frayer/Getty Images)

Scientists and researchers continue to search for a Zika vaccination. The Zika virus can be passed by a pregnant woman to her fetus, and can cause congenital neurological disorders like microcephaly. The virus has been spreading throughout the southern hemisphere and continues to move north to the southern United States, with cases reported in Florida.