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American Technology Companies Join War Against Zika Virus

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Stepping up to the plate in the battle against the Zika virus, U.S. technology companies are employing robotics and automation in efforts to halt the spread of this as well as other mosquito-borne illnesses. Developing partnerships with American public health officials, companies such as Verily and Microsoft are now working in many states, presently testing new high-tech equipment that just might do that job.

In Texas specifically, Microsoft has been testing a form of “smart trap” that would isolate and capture Aedes aegypti mosquitoes, which are known Zika carriers. From there, entomologists can study the insects in order to get ahead on the prediction of potential outbreaks. Verily, based out of California, is working on a form of birth control for the insects, by creating a sterile male mate to pair with females in the wild in efforts to quell the potential spread of the virus through population control.

American Technology Companies Join War Against Zika Virus

Photo: Wikimedia

While both of these types of advancements in the field may take years to become widely implemented, experts anticipate that this new approach through technology will bring fresh opportunities to the field which has otherwise consistently relied on insecticides and larvicides. The lion’s share of the 5,365 Zika cases that have been reported in America have been identified as having come from travelers, contracting the virus elsewhere. However, both Texas and Florida have cases on file that were found to be transmitted through local mosquitoes, which make these states the best testing grounds for new tactics such as these.

American Technology Companies Join War Against Zika Virus

Photo: Pixabay

Within Harris County, Texas, 10 Microsoft mosquito traps are presently operating, including within the city limits of Houston. Approximately the size of large birdhouses, they make use of infrared sensors, robotics, cloud computing, and machine learning to assist local health officials in keeping tabs on possible carriers of disease. Although the state of Texas recorded six Zika cases transmitted through local mosquitoes in November and December of 2016, experts in the field believe that this number is most likely higher considering many infected individuals don’t necessarily develop symptoms. These Microsoft machines allow for the differentiation between mosquitos and all other insects, keeping only those specimens for study, and upon detecting the species within one of its 64 chambers, the trap door slams closed. Testing of the traps in the Houston area began in the summer of 2016, with the new technology registering 85 percent accuracy.


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