Flooding, warm weather spurs mosquitoes

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, June 24, 2003

A combination of scorching temperatures and stagnant water from recent rainfall could result in more mosquitoes - and Lawrence Countians being more susceptible to West Nile Virus.

West Nile Virus (WNV) is a viral disease transmitted by mosquitoes that first appeared in the United States by 1999. Numerous cases have been reported in humans since then. Last year was the largest outbreak of any mosquito-transmitted disease in U.S. history, with Ohio ranking third in the nation with the number of reported cases. Approximately 441 cases were reported in 56 Ohio counties with 31 of those resulting in fatalities.

According to statistics compiled by the Charleston, W.Va., office of the National Weather Service, May 2003 is the second-wettest May on record since 1897, when records were first compiled. Last week, Lawrence County was hit by flash flooding. Mosquitoes, which transmit the virus, need water to breed.

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Kristopher Weiss, a spokesman for the Ohio Department of Health, said if flood water does not recede in two weeks, standing water could result in an influx in mosquitoes. The first ones that would arrive are ones that are simply pests, he said. Then, culex mosquitoes - ones that are more likely to carry the disease - may arrive, depending on how long the water stands.

Because Lawrence County is in a fairly mountainous area, water does not usually remain standing very long after flooding, Weiss said.

This appears to be the case with the most recent flood waters.

Cecil Townsend, county manager for the Ohio Department of Transportation, said every major waterway through the county, such as Symmes Creek, appears to be down. Some driveways and culverts still remain stopped up.

Even if floodwater is going away, higher temperatures are just arriving. After having temperatures in the 50s toward the end of last week, temperatures are now soaring into the mid 80s.

"In two weeks, we'll be in the heart of July," Weiss said. "We see most of our human

cases in July and August."

Last year, three birds and one human tested positive for the disease in Lawrence County. Sue Gunstream, environmental health director for the Lawrence County Health Department, said any time that stagnant water is in an area, mosquitoes will be more prevalent. She urged residents to continue getting rid of stagnant water from such places as bird baths and old tires as well as other preventative measures such as using insect repellent.

So far, Lawrence County has no confirmed bird or human cases, Gunstream said. However, four dead birds in four other Ohio Counties have tested positive for the virus, according to a release from the Ohio Department of Health.