The City of Albuquerque Environmental Health Department and the New Mexico Department of Health have determined that a species of mosquito called Aedes aegypti is now being collected in the Rio Grande bosque area of Albuquerque.  This is the first time that this mosquito vector capable of transmitting Zika, dengue, chikungunya and other diseases has been recovered in Albuquerque or Bernalillo County.

Aedes aegypti/CDC
Aedes aegypti/CDC

To date, Aedes aegypti mosquitoes have also been found in Chaves, Curry, Doña Ana, Eddy, Guadalupe, Hidalgo, Lea, Luna, Otero, Quay, Roosevelt, Sierra, Socorro, and Valencia counties.

“We have been monitoring mosquito populations here for decades and never collected Aedes aegypti,” said Dr. Mark DiMenna, Deputy Director at the City’s Environmental Health Department.  “We are grateful to have made this detection early so we have the best possible opportunity to track and prevent illness.”

Aedes aegypti, also known as the yellow fever mosquito, is an important vector of mosquito-borne disease worldwide.  The species originated in Africa but has been carried around the world along trade routes.  In addition to most tropical countries, it has historically been found throughout areas of the southern and eastern United States.  Over the past several years, a range expansion has been reported in New Mexico as additional monitoring has found populations of the mosquito established in several counties where it had not previously been known to exist.

There has been no local transmission of Zika, dengue or chikungunya virus in New Mexico, so although the mosquitoes can be found in several counties in the state, the risk remains very low for New Mexicans. According to the State Epidemiologist with the New Mexico Department of Health, Dr. Mike Landen, “the risk for these diseases is primarily to persons traveling to an area in the world where those diseases are actively transmitted.”

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Current monitoring indicates that Aedes aegypti is limited to areas near the bosque in the central extent of the city.  The City of Albuquerque’s Urban Biology Division, part of the Environmental Health Department, operates a mosquito control program in collaboration with Bernalillo County.  Staff from this program are evaluating options in an effort to stop or delay the further establishment of this new species; because monitoring has detected the presence of this mosquito early, the City will have the best possible opportunity to track, and hopefully slow, its establishment.  In addition, knowing that this species is present provides a significant benefit in protecting public health if viruses that it transmits turn up locally.