Fort Collins is ground zero for American Zika virus research, even though there’s slim to no chance of anyone contracting the virus here.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Division of Vector-Borne Diseases, located amid Colorado State University’s Foothills Campus, has conducted Zika research since 2007. For the last three months, though, the currently incurable virus has been the branch’s No. 1 focus.
Of the 80-some employees in the branch’s Arbovirus Laboratory, “there is not one person who is not working on Zika virus right now,” lab chief and research microbiologist Ann Powers said. “Everybody has been pulled in.”
On Friday afternoon, Colorado Sens. Michael Bennet and Cory Gardner toured the insectary where the CDC studies the types of mosquitoes that carry the virus.
“You go into a laboratory and you see a box of a thousand mosquitoes flying around, and you realize that this little tiny mosquito … what that could mean for transmission is pretty incredible,” Gardner said during a press briefing after the tour.
The risk of Zika transmission is low in Colorado because the two types of mosquitoes that carry the virus thrive in subtropical environments. Colorado’s high altitude, low humidity and cool temperatures don't meet the bill, Powers said.