SANTIAGO – Health authorities in Chile have for the first time in decades found a specimen of the mosquito species responsible for spreading the Zika virus and say more are likely to appear.
Chile eradicated the Aedes aegypti mosquito species in 1961 on its mainland and the World Health Organization has said it does not expect the Zika virus to spread to the country.
The mosquito specimen was found dead in a home in the city of Arica, located some 1,033 miles (1,663 kms) north of capital city Santiago in the Atacama desert next to the border with Peru, health authorities said.
"The mostly likely scenario is that it isn't just one (specimen) because it was captured as an adult and it probably came here in an egg; it's easier to transport that way," Health Undersecretary Jaime Burrows said on Tuesday.
"Now we're in the process of counting them, seeing how many larvae there are, where they are found," said Burrows.
Large parts of Latin America and the Caribbean have been affected by the Zika outbreak, with Brazil hardest hit so far. It is likely to spread to all countries in the Americas except Canada and Chile, the WHO has said.
There have been no reported cases in mainland Chile of mosquitoes infecting people with the Zika virus. In March the country reported its first case of the Zika virus being sexually transmitted.
U.S. health officials have concluded that Zika infections in pregnant women can cause microcephaly, a birth defect marked by small head size that can lead to severe developmental problems in babies.
The World Health Organization has said there is strong scientific consensus that Zika can also cause Guillain-Barre, a rare neurological syndrome that causes temporary paralysis in adults.
The connection between Zika and microcephaly first came to light last fall in Brazil, which has now confirmed more than 1,100 cases of microcephaly that it considers to be related to Zika infections in mothers.