A pair of professors at Texas A&M University have come up with an app to help public health officials in the fight against the Zika virus.
The app, which runs on both Apple and Android smartphones and tablets, enables both public health workers and crowdsourced “citizen scientists” to send both geocoded locations and street addresses of potential breeding locations for the Aedes mosquito, carrier of the Zika virus.
The pests love to deposit their eggs in stagnant water located in places such as bird baths, discarded tires, abandoned swimming pools and plugged gutters. The app transmits the location to a website for review by mosquito abatement officers, helping them to prioritize areas for mosquito control measures.
Jennifer Horney, associate professor at the Texas A&M School of Public Health, said the idea for the app came this summer when her students were out in the field searching for water collection spots in the community.
“Even in a fairly small town, that's a big job,” Horney said. “If these citizen scientists could help, they could collect a lot more data than our health department officials or our student volunteers. If everyone helps out a little bit, we could get that done."
Horney worked with Daniel Goldberg, assistant professor of geography and of computer science and engineering.
The app is available online, and some students have already submitted data, she said.
According to estimates by the World Bank, the Zika virus will have an economic impact of $3.5 billion this year, mainly due to reduced spending on travel and tourism to endemic areas. The estimate doesn't include the costs associated with developing a Zika vaccine or those of children affected by microcephaly, a birth defect linked to the virus.