Dedicated Zika testing lab opens in Sarasota Co.

Kimberly Kuizon reports

- Testing trapped mosquitoes for the Zika virus can be a waiting game, but a dedicated testing lab in Sarasota County is changing the game for the Bay Area. 

When mosquito management officers thought they had an infected mosquito, they would send them to a lab in Kissimmee for testing. Results could take up to a week to come back. 

"You are constantly watching your email, waiting to see. Once you find out, it's been anywhere from five to 10 days. A lot can happen in mosquito populations in that short of time," said biologist Chip Hancock.

Thanks to a new, dedicated lab in Sarasota County, Hancock and his co-workers will no longer have to wait. It's state-of-the-art and will help identify a positive Zika mosquito in hours.

"Once we identify those mosquitos, we will bring them back here and test those mosquitos for Zika, chikungunya and dengue within about three hours of us identifying them," he said.

Sarasota County Mosquito Management has been working on the lab for the last two months. It will be up and running later this week. It will begin testing for Zika soon after.

"This is a big deal for us. It's the same machinery, same exact tests they are running in Kissimmee ," said Hancock.

Employees have to go through training and the equipment has to be looked over before the lab will go into full operation. Once it does, Sarasota County Mosquito Management said it will save time and help inform the public when needed.

"We are in the business of protecting the public. If we can monitor those populations around those people we know are Zika-positive, we can keep an eye on them and make sure it hasn't escaped and put other people nearby in risk," said Hancock.

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