Virus-carrying mosquito discovered in Kent and Essex

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A species of mosquito known to carry the dangerous West Nile virus has been discovered in Kent and Essex.

Culex Modestus has not been seen in the UK since 1945, but has been found on marshland on the Thames Estuary.

It is now being investigated to find out if it poses any risk to public health.

Oxford University postgraduate student Nick Golding, who discovered the mosquito, said he believes it arrived recently.

He said: "A handful of individuals were collected on the south coast in the 1940s, but didn't appear to be an established population.

"Since those records, the species hasn't been seen again in the UK until now."

Satellite imagery

Scientists from the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology (CEH), the Health Protection Agency and Oxford University are working to establish how widespread the mosquitoes are and whether there is any risk to human health.

They have been using satellite imagery in order to identify habitats where the mosquito might be breeding before looking for it on the ground.

The West Nile virus has been known to be transmitted by the mosquito in sporadic bursts in southern Europe, however, the virus is not known to have been contracted in the UK.

According to the NHS, most people who contract the virus have mild flu-like symptoms, however, in less than one in 100 cases a person can develop inflammation of the brain and spinal cord. This can lead to death.

Dr Miles Nunn, from the CEH, said: "In the UK the mosquito's biting habits and ability to transmit West Nile virus have yet to be investigated."

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