High-tech lab fighting Zika virus in Sarasota County

County spent $65K on new equipment
Posted at 6:34 PM, Sep 20, 2016
and last updated 2016-09-20 18:34:09-04

Mosquito control experts in Sarasota County believe a new, state-of-the-art facility will help prevent a local outbreak of the Zika virus.

ABC Action News got a behind the scenes tour Tuesday of the county's high-tech virus testing laboratory.

Targeting potential Zika hot spots, right now, is a lengthy process for most Florida counties.

After a mosquito control crew sets a trap, they have to ship samples to a state laboratory for testing.  A week passes before crews know whether or not they need to return to the area for treatment, leaving residents at risk of contracting the virus for up to a week.  

"People in the area could have been sitting out, drinking their margaritas in their backyards being bitten by mosquitoes," said Matt Smith, director of Mosquito Management Services of Sarasota County. .

The virus testing lab means Sarasota County doesn't have to wait around on the state lab to process results.

"This will allow us to not only go trap and see how many mosquitoes are available to transmit the disease, but now we can test those mosquitoes within 24 hours."

The county spent $65,000 on new equipment for the upgrade, making it the only lab in the Tampa Bay area offering this kind of Zika testing.

"It allows us to level the playing field with our testing ability for all viruses," said Smith. "We can now test everything at the exact same speed in the exact same sensitivity.  And that effects each and every person living in every part of the county."