ST. LOUIS (KMOV.com) -- The West Nile Virus is back and spreading, and there is real reason to protect yourself. The virus carried by mosquitoes has already killed 10 people and sickened 200 others, and that’s just in Texas.
It’s so bad, Dallas is under a state of emergency. Thursday night, planes began an aerial assault on the insects by dropping insecticide. It’s the first aerial drops in 45 years.
One patient described the flu-like symptoms that landed her in the hospital.
“It’s this killer, killer headache,” Katharyn DeVille explained. “It just makes me feel like somebody has an ax in my head, and it hurts really bad, like this light right now is pretty excruciating.”
News 4 also has learned that 12 cases of West Nile Virus have been confirmed in Illinois, all in the Chicago area. That’s what has local health departments most concerned, because the virus travels east to west. I talked to local health officials about what’s being done to guard against an outbreak here and learned that the St. Louis County Health Department is watching what’s going on in Texas and Illinois. The county is being aggressive with its fogging to kill mosquitoes, especially after Thursday’s rain, because it only takes a capful of standing water for the bugs to breed.
Inside Vector Control, a map of St. Louis County is marked with colored notes with numbers on them. They show the number of mosquitoes found in traps throughout the county. Two-hundred is high.
“We’ve had actually up to 1,200 mosquitoes in a trap in a single night,” Vector Control Manager Drew Hane said.
Samples of the blood-suckers are sent to a lab at Southeast Missouri State University to be tested for West Nile Virus. County Vector Control then sprays insecticide—four nights a week—in neighborhoods where West Nile-carrying mosquitoes are discovered.
“We have seen West Nile Virus in St. Louis County,” Hane said. “We’ve seen 64 batches out of the 1,200 that we’ve sent this year. It’s a little higher percentage than what we’ve seen in years’ past.”
Hane says August is prime time for us humans to become a hot meal for mosquitoes.
“Early in the spring, the mosquito has easy targets with baby birds, baby squirrels and mammals, so they get an easy blood meal,” Hane said. “Well, now that it’s in the summer, all of these animals are growing up and they’re harder to catch, and we become the easy blood meals.”
So avoid becoming a target. Start by emptying all standing water.
“We haven’t had to worry about rain a lot this year, but with the downpour like we’ve had [Thursday], if someone’s gutters are clogged, then that could be a potential breeding site,” Hane said. “So we ask people to check that as well.”
Hane also reminds people to wear insect repellant, especially at dawn and dusk when the type of mosquitoes that carry West Nile are most active.