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On January 1, 2017, the KHI News Service became part of KCUR public radio’s new initiative, the Kansas News Service. The Kansas News Service will continue to cover health policy news and broaden its scope to include education and politics. All stories produced by the former KHI News Service are archived here. Stories and photos may be republished at no cost with proper attribution and a link back to

Kansas works to contain spread of Zika virus

By Abigail Beckman | July 06, 2016

Photo by AFPMB James L. Occi/Flickr Creative Commons The Zika virus can be carried by the Aedes mosquito, shown here.

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Five cases of Zika virus have been reported in Kansas, all of which originated outside the United States. State agencies and university laboratories are looking for ways to keep that number at a minimum.

The Kansas Department of Health and Environment has started a statewide surveillance program to monitor mosquitoes, which it does every year. This year, though, because of the increased concern about Zika, researchers with the Kansas Biological Survey at the University of Kansas will be looking closely for the Aedes mosquito, a species known to carry the virus.

The Zika virus can be carried in two types of Aedes mosquito. It often doesn’t include severe symptoms and rarely leads to death. The virus been linked to some severe birth defects such as microcephaly, where an infant’s head doesn’t develop to full size.

Cassie Sparks, a spokeswoman for KDHE, said the surveillance program began a month ago in southeast Kansas and will fan out through the rest of state.

“The goal of that surveillance is to get a better idea of where the Aedes mosquitos are located in the state and the density of those mosquitos throughout Kansas,” Sparks said.

The surveillance program involves trapping and counting mosquito species in the state. The numbers are then reported back to the KDHE.

A total of 820 cases of Zika have been reported in the United States. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, none of those has originated in the United States. That includes all five Kansas cases.

— Abigail Wilson is a reporter for KMUW.