Florida has less than half of the special traps that will be part of the frontline for detecting the Zika virus in mosquitoes because of a backlog at the manufacturer, Florida Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam said Thursday.
State workers had ordered more than 300 of the traps but so far have gotten only about 120 traps. The remaining 190 traps are on back order, Putnam said while touring a state lab in Kissimmee, Florida, that is testing mosquitoes caught in the traps for the Zika virus.
Putnam said he's not concerned yet because state workers placed the order for the BG-Sentinel traps months ago, and Florida is at the top of the list of recipients. The cost of the traps and the lab testing is around $150,000.
"It's kind of like when you order plywood and ice when a hurricane is on the way," Putnam said. "We anticipated there would be a demand for these so we got on the list early."
Two spokespeople for the Germany-based manufacturer didn't immediately respond to an email seeking comment about the backlog.
The Florida Department of Health has tracked 158 cases of the Zika virus in the state, including 36 involving pregnant women. All of the cases are related to travel.
New York and Florida lead the nation in the number of Zika infections caught by travelers.
The Zika virus causes only a mild and brief illness, at worst, in most people. But in the last year, infections in pregnant women have been strongly linked to fetal deaths and to potentially severe birth defects, mostly in Brazil.
The black, cylindrical traps, a little larger than an ice bucket, are being distributed in 56 of Florida 67 counties, with the most traps being placed in counties where there are the most Zika cases and where there are the most travelers going to places where the Zika virus has been detected.
The BG-Sentinel trap, which each cost a couple of hundred dollars, emits a scent that resembles humans and traps mosquitoes in a bag.
The mosquito samples are sent to the Bronson Animal Disease Diagnostic Lab in Kissimmee, where scientists test them for the Zika virus. No mosquito has tested positive for Zika virus, or other diseases, in the two weeks the lab has been testing the mosquitoes.
"The fear is that someone who is infected could be bitten by a local mosquito and it would then live long enough to potentially bite another person and transmit the virus," Putnam said. "Ideally, as early as possible, we would recognize that Zika did exist in the mosquito population and immediately be able to respond to a very contained geographic area."