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Pinellas leaders ask permission to use genetically modified mosquitoes

15 elected officials sent letter to HHS Secretary
Posted at 5:50 PM, Aug 26, 2016

Pinellas County Mosquito Control is now responding to a record number of calls for service.

“Boots on the ground is definitely showing improvement in the areas that we’ve been actually task forced to go out to," said Krueger with Pinellas Co. mosquito control. “The faster we get there, the less mosquitoes have a chance to breathe.”

Mosquito control is visiting up to 100 properties per day. But even that may not be enough.

15 Tampa Bay elected officials sent a letter to the Department of Health and Human Services Friday.

It asks the federal government to issue an "emergency use" authorization for local commissioners, allowing them to use genetically modified mosquitoes in Pinellas County to fight the Zika virus if it continues to spread.  

“It’s over 90% effective in eliminating the mosquitoes that carry the mosquito virus and should we have an issue here in Pinellas or in another part of the state, we want to ability to utilize this technology," said Rep. Chris Sprowls, R-Palm Harbor, who signed the letter.

The experimental method has only been approved to be used in Monroe County.  

Male mosquitoes are released to mate with females but do not reproduce.  Early studies have shown that can successfully kill the virus.

“To say you have an option that is at your disposal but not at ours," said Rep. Sprowls. "We’re asking that you put it at ours so that if we need it, we can use it.”

The use of genetically modified mosquitoes has drawn controversy from residents in the Florida Keys. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has said the strategy poses no harm to the environment.

While elected officials wait for Washington's response, Krueger is keeping his crews busy one home at a time.

“We’re always out there protecting the citizens against the virus," said Krueger.  "The idea is to be aware of it, take control and make things fixed.”