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Mosquito Season Could Bring West Nile Virus

Journal & Courier
May 29, 2007

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Get that bug spray ready; along with the warmer weather, mosquitos are in the air.  It is important to remember some mosquitos can give you more than just an annoying bite.  According to the Indiana Center for Disease Control, 78 people contracted the West Nile virus last year.  Five of those died from the illness.  Although it is difficult to predict how bad the mosquito season will be this year, researchers say it is important to take precautions.

Purdue Medical Entomologist Catherine Hill studies the biology of mosquitos that cause human illnesses.

"In Indiana, West Nile Virus is probably the major borne virus that we need to be aware of and thinking about how we may take precautions to prevent being bitten," Hill said.  Hill added that although people may think places like the Wabash River and the Celery Bog are prime biting grounds, West Nile mosquitos breed a little closer to home.

"These mosquitos tend to breed in containers and sites where you have standing polluted water.  They don't tend to fly very far, so it's important to clean up those sorts of sites around your house.  Kiddy swimming pools that have standing water in them have become polluted.  Any type of container, for instance pet bowls or bird bathes or tires that need to be cleaned up" Hill said. 

Hill said mosquitos are attracted to sweat and dark colors, and they bite most frequently between dusk and dawn.  She said the more it rains the more mosquitoes you will see.

"This past month it's been very dry, so we haven't been picking up as many mosquitos because it's been so dry," Hill said.

According to the CDC, mosquitos in Marion County tested positive for West Nile this month. 

Hill said human infections usually do not appear for another two to three months.

"August and September, so it's mid to late summer when people need to be really careful about getting mosquito bites," Hill said. 

Symptoms of the West Nile Virus include high fever, severe headaches, neck or muscle stiffness and nausea.