Amid the spread of the dreaded Zika virus, a lot of conspiracy theories came out and some spurred panic among affected residents. In a new survey, it shows that more than one-third of Americans believe that genetically-modified mosquitoes are to blame for the spread of Zika, a mosquito-borne illness linked to microcephaly.

Researchers from the University of Pennsylvania's Annenberg Public Policy Center conducted the survey. Notably, fear and misinformation about the Zika virus is still present.

The survey recruited more than 1,000 respondents in the United States. It was done through a telephone interview conducted this month.

What They Found

The survey (PDF) included questions about the participants' knowledge about Zika and its transmission. It also probed into the level of concern of participants on the growing outbreak. The researchers found that 91 percent of the respondents reported that they know mosquitoes carry the virus and transmit it.

Fifty-one percent said that they are concerned about the ongoing outbreak, but 46 percent said that they are not concerned. Notably, 35 percent of the respondents believe that genetically-modified mosquitoes are to be blamed for the spread of the virus while 43 percent said that GM mosquitoes could be the solution to the ongoing outbreak.

Lastly, the majority of the respondents are aware that Brazil has the most cases of Zika virus infections.

The survey sheds light on the need for further information dissemination among residents and other people across the globe on Zika virus. This will help prevent public fear and will help people to work together to stem the virus, as well as its vectors - Aedes mosquitoes.

Genetically Modified Mosquitoes Conspiracy Theory

Zika virus is known for its link to microcephaly and other conditions. It causes birth defects - babies born to infected mothers have smaller brains than normal - which can lead to a lifetime neurological problems and learning disabilities.

In 2011, biotechnology firm Oxitec released genetically modified mosquitoes in Brazil to combat dengue fever and other diseases.

In January, a Reddit thread titled, "Genetically modified mosquitoes released in Brazil in 2015 linked to the current Zika epidemic?" has caught the attention of the public and spurred debate among users.

Photo: John Tann | Flickr

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