Most Floridians Totally Cool With Using Genetically Modified Mosquitoes To Fight Zika

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Although a plan to use genetically modified mosquitoes in Florida to fight the spread of Zika is on hold for now, a new survey says that most residents approve such a tactic.

A full 40% of Floridians said they “strongly favor” the release of the mosquitoes, and 20% “somewhat favor” it, according to a recent Annenberg Science Knowledge survey from the folks at the Annenberg Public Policy Center. Floridians are also more likely to approve of the modified skeeters than those in other states, at 60% compared to 50%.

In addition, Floridians are more likely than other U.S. adults to say that scientists have established that GM mosquitoes could minimize the spread of Zika, at 35% versus 27%, and twice as likely nationally — 40% to 20% — to say they’ve done something in the past three months to protect themselves from Zika.

It’s unsurprising that residents of The Sunshine State know their stuff, as Zika has been dominating headlines in the state since July, when Florida became the first state in the continental U.S. to report locally transmitted cases of the virus. As of Aug. 25, there have been 43 non-travel cases of the virus reported by the Florida Department of Health, and 534-travel reported cases.

The genetically modified male mosquitoes are intended to mate with wild females of the Aedes aegypti variety, which is the kind that is likely to transmit the virus. Their offspring die before reaching adulthood, thus, removing their potential to carry Zika. The Food and Drug Administration approved a field trial of the insects in the Florida Keys, but put those plans on delay after locals voiced concerns. Residents will vote on the matter in a Nov. 8 referendum.

With a total of 2,517 U.S. cases of Zika as of Aug. 24, the FDA has issued a notice to all blood banks and donation centers in the country, recommending that they screen all donations for the Zika virus.

“There is still much uncertainty regarding the nature and extent of Zika virus transmission,” said Peter Marks, M.D., Ph.D., director of the FDA’s Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research. “At this time, the recommendation for testing the entire blood supply will help ensure that safe blood is available for all individuals who might need transfusion.”

This new announcement marks a pretty big expansion from an earlier advisory from the agency that had suggested such screening only in areas with active Zika virus transmission.

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