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Do mosquitos transmit coronavirus?

Published Apr 25th, 2020 12:05PM EDT
mosquito coronavirus
Image: Larry West/Flpa/imageBROKER/Shutterstock

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  • Mosquitos are known to carry a variety of microorganisms capable of causing disease, but is coronavirus one of them?
  • At the moment, the CDC and the World Health Organization don’t believe mosquitoes pose a threat.
  • The novel coronavirus is transmitted primarily through the air, and there are no known cases of mosquito-borne coronavirus infections at this time.
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The novel coronavirus pandemic is still an incredibly serious problem for, well, just about every country on the planet. Even areas where new cases are beginning to wane, the risk of a new wave of outbreaks remains present. With that in mind, and as we inch toward warmer summer months, it’s worth considering whether mosquitos are capable of carrying and transmitting the virus from one person to another.

Elizabeth McGraw, Director of the Center for Infectious Disease Dynamics and professor at Penn State University, tackles that question in a new video where she explains the likelihood of COVID-19 being carried by mosquitos.

In the brief video, McGraw makes it clear that scientists don’t expect that the novel coronavirus will travel between individuals via mosquito bites. Both the CDC and WHO have said that there doesn’t appear to be a risk of the virus being carried by mosquitos, and they have good reasons to believe that to be true.

“We know this is a respiratory tract infection and it’s really transmitted most commonly by large droplets that are expelled from the respiratory tract,” McGraw explains. “We also know that when SARS and MERS were a problem, mosquitos did not appear to be involved with transmission of those closely related coronaviruses either.”

The coronavirus sweeping the globe right now is not the first one that scientists and health experts have had to tackle. SARS and MERS were both coronavirus-linked diseases that spread rapidly, though not to the extent that COVID-19 has. Nevertheless, there’s a lot we can learn about the current viral outbreak by looking at those examples.

Mosquitos are known to transmit many deadly diseases including malaria. They can do some serious damage in areas where such diseases run rampant and healthcare systems aren’t equipped to deal with a flood of cases.

However, the coronavirus that causes COVID-19 is mostly an airborne disease, and while we know that it can have some dramatic effects on the blood — including clotting that may cause damage to the heart, kidneys, and brain — scientists don’t believe it can be carried from one person to another by a mosquito.

That’s a small bit of good news for anyone still holding their breath over summer vacation or party plans, but it doesn’t mean that other precautions aren’t still warranted. Social distancing and working from home are helping to flatten the virus curve in some of the hardest-hit states, and states with fewer cases are seeing things move in the right direction as well.

Canceling stay-at-home orders at this point would be an invitation to disaster. We’re certainly not at a point where we can count on herd immunity to prevent a second wave of new infections, and until a vaccine is available there’s little we can do beyond keeping our distance.

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