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Genetically modified mosquitoes: What you need to know

They are being released in the Florida Keys to help control a species that can carry deadly diseases.

PINELLAS COUNTY, Fla. — Thousands of genetically modified mosquitoes are being released in the Florida Keys this week.  The goal: to cut down the population of a specific species of mosquito that can carry deadly diseases. 

First, no need to worry about these genetically modified mosquitoes flying up here from the Keys.  

Alissa Berro from Pinellas County Mosquito Control says they only fly about 200 yards from where they are released. Plus, their target is commonly found around homes: the aedes aegypti. 

"The reason why we target it is because, this is the mosquito that you may know as the ankle biter, but it's more than just a pest. This is a huge public health threat. This specific mosquito carries Zika,  dengue, yellow fever and even dog heartworm."

So, how do these modified mosquitoes control the population? 

Only males are released. Those males mate with the females already in the environment. The babies they produce won't be females, explained Berro.

That keeps the population going down. However, every 12 weeks more modified males will need to be released to continue the trend.  

RELATED: Thousands of genetically modified mosquitoes will be released in the Florida Keys this week

Berro says this control method has had some success in other countries like Brazil, Panama and India.  

"It is a promising tool and it's an important thing to be looking at because as we see increased insecticide resistance, that's one of the major concerns of mosquito control. And, the other is that even though we use multiple methods, this particular mosquito species loves to live in the containers around your home."

That means the best way we can help control this type of mosquito is to walk around your property, at least once a week, and dump out any standing water. This mosquito only needs a tiny amount, a bottle cap full, to lay its eggs and multiply quickly.

RELATED: Mosquitoes carrying the Zika virus could be resistant to insecticides, study finds

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