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High School Students Could Help Fight Zika Virus

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The US wants to enlist students and the general public to help track mosquitoes in the country. Mosquitoes that carry the Zika virus are already in the US, but the government wants to know exactly where. Zika was first isolated in Uganda, and its symptoms can be compared to those of Dengue fever. The U.S. Department of Agriculture has proposed a new project where citizens (especially students) can help out. The basic idea of the project is for volunteers to collect data about mosquito eggs in areas near them by setting mosquito traps and then upload it online to an online map that will track mosquito hotspots. ABC News reports that the spread of the virus (that can cause birth defects) from mosquitos to humans is very likely.

The experiment is apparently easy to do and involves using dark colored plastic cups and brown paper towels. The towels are placed in the cups, then the cups are filled two-thirds with water. The cups are then placed around students’ homes. A week or so later, the students take the brown paper towels out, dry them, and look for mosquito eggs. No previous experience is necessary, and high school teachers teach students how to avoid bites.

Noah Busch who teaches biology to high school students in Manhattan, Kansas and has incorporated the USDA program into his classes says that he had ‘more parents afraid of this project’ than any of his students.

I had more parents afraid of this project than any of my students The parents were thinking we were attracting mosquitoes. No, the mosquitoes are already there.

An entomologist with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control John-Paul Mutebi, has stressed that the government doesn’t ‘ have a lot of data’, which means this project could potentially help solve this problem.

We don’t have a lot of data — good, solid data.

Meanwhile, according to a report in the International Business Times, the US Senate is set to vote next week on whether  $1 billion should be allocated to emergency funding to fight Zika.  

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