Mosquito Outbreak to Follow Midwest Floods?

June 25, 2008

Even as floodwaters subside in parts of the Midwest, residents along the Mississippi River could find themselves knee-deep in another hassle: mosquitoes.

The first potential outbreaks, hatched out of the flood's still-standing backwaters, won't necessarily be the disease-carrying kind.

But mid-July marks the beginning of the prime season for the mosquito varieties that most commonly carry the West Nile virus—northern and southern house mosquitoes.

Linn Haramis, an entomologist with the Illinois Department of Public Health in Springfield, says the remaining Midwestern floodwaters could breed a bumper crop of West Nile-carrying mosquitoes—but only if temperatures are especially hot.

In that regard, flood-ravaged Midwesterners just might get a break.

Slow Start

So far this year, there have been no cases of West Nile reported in flood-affected Missouri or Illinois. But that's typical of the disease's pattern—most cases occur later in the summer.

Last year, 101 people in Illinois got sick from the disease, which causes neurological symptoms in one out of 150 infections, and four people died of it, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Seventy-seven people got sick and five people died in Missouri.

Only one local government in Missouri—St. Louis County—tests mosquitoes for the virus. Officials there announced on Monday that mosquitoes bearing the disease have been found in about a fifth of their samples.

"We know the virus is active," said Karen Yates, of the vector-borne disease program in the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services in Jefferson City.

The Illinois Department of Public Health has also reported mosquitoes testing positive for West Nile in central and southern parts of the state.

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