Smartphones are being used to combat the dreaded mosquito in Italy, with a new app that tracks the location of the blood-sucking pests.
The free app, called ZanzaMapp, gathers information from the public in order to highlight hot spots of mozzie activity in real time. The mosquito heat map will allow people to avoid areas with high concentrations of bugs, and help authorities to better direct pest control efforts, the project's website notes. It also enables users to upload photos so that experts can determine which species have been found and where.
The app's creator, expectant father Cesare Bianchi from Rome's Sapienza University, says he was driven by a lack of information on how to deal with new threats such as the mosquito-borne Zika virus, which doctors believe causes severe birth defects.
"I was searching for a place that was as safe as possible from the risk of Zika", he says. "I realised there's little practical information on how to manage the presence of mosquitoes." The app includes tips for making places less attractive to the insects, such as removing stagnant water.
In March, the World Health Organisation warned that European countries may be at risk of a Zika outbreak, with the widespread tiger mosquito capable of transmitting the virus. In 2007, tiger mosquitoes were blamed for an outbreak in northern Italy of the chikungunya virus, more commonly seen in tropical regions.