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Australian mosquito found in L.A. County, first U.S. report of pest

An Australian mosquito capable of transmitting viruses to humans and heartworm to dogs was found in the San Gabriel Valley, vector-control officials said Monday.

It's believed to be the first sighting of the species in North America.

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Aedes notoscriptus, nicknamed Aussie Mozzie, was first found in June at Monterey Park's city yard, said Jason Farned, spokesman for the San Gabriel Valley Mosquito & Vector Control District. Another specimen was found at a Montebello home in August.

The mosquito infects humans with the Barmah Forest and Ross River viruses, both of which are non-lethal.

"In Australia this mosquito is very widespread and capable of transmitting several viruses," Farned said. "Fortunately for us, none of those viruses have ever been reported in L.A. County."

It's unknown if the mosquito will become a major public health risk in California, Farned  said. But because it infects dogs in Australia with heartworm, it may be a concern here for pet owners and vets.

The Aussie Mozzie is a lot like the Asian tiger mosquito, which was first found in Southern California in 2011, because it has a short flight range and bites during the day, unlike common mosquitoes. It also tends to lay its eggs inside the edges of small containers, rather than pools of water, Farned said.

Vector-control officials consider the Asian tiger mosquito a bigger threat because it's capable of spreading debilitating diseases such as dengue fever and chikungunya virus. Neither has been transmitted in L.A. County.

Technicians weren't able to identify the first Aussie Mozzie specimen found in Monterey Park's city yard because it was battered, Farned said, but did note that it has unusual black and white stripes. The body of another one was found at a Montebello home and positively identified with the help of the University of Sydney.

A. notoscriptus was later found at three other sites in Monterey Park and two homes in Montebello.

"We're asking residents to report any day biting mosquitoes," Farned said. "We're still learning as we go with the brand new species, there's still a lot of unanswered questions."

To report possible sightings, contact the Greater Los Angeles County Vector Control District at (562) 944-9656 or www.reportmosquitoes.org, or the San Gabriel Valley Mosquito & Vector Control District at (626) 814-9466 or www.sgvmosquito.org.

For breaking news, follow @AdolfoFlores3.

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