As of August 2016, Florida had reported 479 cases of Zika virus, 35 of which were contracted via local transmission, meaning they didn’t bring the virus back from overseas. Scientists at the UF/IFAS Florida Medical Entomology Laboratory (FMEL) at Vero Beach in Indian River County have made combating zika a top priority, focusing on raising awareness about how to prevent it further transmission. The zika virus is most likely transmitted by Aedes aegypti—the yellow fever mosquito—and Aedes albopictus—the Asian tiger mosquito. Roxanne Connelly, a professor at FMEL, has been holding webinars and educational workshops, telling people to get rid of standing water and containers that could become mosquito breeding grounds and to wear insect repellant containing DEET. Connelly and her team have also been working to detect insecticide resistance and to create computer models to show mosquito locations and predicted movement. FMEL faculty have also put together a website, with information about Zika and how to protect against it.
Asian tiger mosquito (Aedes albopictus) one of the two mosquito species thought to transmit the Zika virus. Photo: James Newman, UF/IFAS
In Vero Beach, UF/IFAS Extension Indian River County has teamed up with The Gifford Youth Achievement Center to help cultivate a student community garden and help educate children and teens about plants and gardening. The Gifford Youth Achievement Center is an afterschool program that focuses on uniting recreation with education. Indian River County Horticulture Extension agents and Master Gardener volunteers came to the center to help start a community garden. They teach kids how to grow plants and how to transfer gardening principles into everyday life. This UF/IFAS video talks more about the program and its impact on the students at the Gifford Youth Achievement Center.