Can mosquitoes transmit COVID-19? Purdue expert says it’s ‘extremely unlikely’


File photo of mosquito

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. – It’s a question on many Hoosiers’ minds, especially as the weather gets warmer: can mosquitoes spread COVID-19?

Catherine Hill, a professor of entomology and vector biology at Purdue University, said there is no evidence to support the idea that mosquitoes can spread the coronavirus.

Scientists around the world are studying the issue, but Hill said there are many reasons it’s “extremely unlikely” that mosquitoes can transmit the virus.

“It is early days but we’re always looking at things from a risk management and assessment perspective and I think the risk is very low,” Hill said.

COVID-19 belongs to the coronavirus family and other viruses in the same family—such as SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome) and MERS (Middle East respiratory syndrome)—are not transmitted through mosquitoes, Hill pointed out.

She offered these points to help calm fears:

  • While research is still ongoing into primary routes of transmission, SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, is a “respiratory virus” and is primarily transmitted by “aerosol” route; sneezing/coughing and touching contaminated surfaces and then touching your face. Although it has been detected at low levels in the blood, there is no evidence it can be transmitted via bite from a mosquito.
  • It’s true that mosquitoes can transmit some viruses such as dengue and Zika, but they don’t transmit all viruses, for example viruses like HIV, Ebola, and Coronaviruses
  • For a mosquito to become infected with SARS-CoV-2, it would have to feed on the blood of an infected person, acquire the virus, which would have to pass into the midgut of the mosquito, infect the salivary glands, replicate and then be passed to another person during a second blood meal. This whole process takes 10-14 days and during this time a virus would have to overcome physical and physiological barriers. There is no biological evidence that any virus in the coronavirus family is capable of achieving this feat. Transmission is a remote possibility.

Hill said Hoosiers should remain vigilant this summer about tick- and mosquito-borne illnesses like Zika, West Nile and Lyme disease.

She’s concerned, with so much attention on COVID-19, that people may not pay enough attention to the other diseases. However, because of social distancing, some of those mosquito-borne illnesses could see a decrease because people are limiting their exposure.

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