About 20 million lab-raised, bacteria-infected mosquitoes are being hatched and intentionally released in the Fresno area.
But that’s apparently good news.
It’s part of the Debug Project run by Verily Life Sciences, a subsidary of Alphabet Inc. (Google’s parent company).
The goal is to rid the area of the mosquitoes that have the potential to carry the Zika virus
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Verily plans to release 20 million mosquitoes in Fresno starting Friday, according to a Techcrunch.com story.
The hope is that while mating, these lab-raised mosquitos become sterile and mate with the wild mosquoitoes that are wild and capable of carrying the Zika virus, and their resulting eggs do not hatch.
The bacteria carried by the Verily mosquitoes is considered harmless to humans.
Aedes aegypti mosquitoes, which can transmit the virus, would no longer be able to reproduce.
A year ago, a woman became Fresno County’s first travel-associated Zika case after being bitten while out of the country. Another woman this year became the county’s first confirmed case through sexual contact with a partner who had been traveling.
There’s a growing fear that since there are mosquitoes capable of carrying the Zika virus are already in the area, it’s could be a matter of time before they actually start carrying the harmful virus – and worse, start infecting people.
The Aedes aegypti mosquito has been spreading in the central San Joaquin Valley since 2013 and is particularly widespread in Clovis and parts of Fresno.
As an added bonus, Verily’s infected male mosquitoes don’t bite so Fresno residents won’t have to worry about itching more than usual.
Verily plans to release about 1 million mosquitoes per week over a 20-week period in two 300-acre neighborhoods in the Fresno area — the largest U.S. release to date of those infected with the Wolbachia bacteria.
Those in the Fancher Creek neighborhood, in southeast Fresno, may notice a Verily van releasing healthy swarms throughout its streets beginning Friday.