Recent rainfall in Amarillo prompts specialists to test mosquitoes for diseases

West Nile Live at 5

AMARILLO, Texas (KFDA) - The increase of rain the Panhandle has experienced the last week has led to more than just wet roads.

Heavy and constant rain has created an ideal environment for mosquitoes to live, leaving the Amarillo Environmental Health Department testing these insects to check if any are carrying a disease or virus.

“I’ve actually seen what I think are probably two cases of West Nile within the last week or two.” said Scott Milton, a professor and infectious disease physician at Texas Tech University.

West Nile Virus is here in the Panhandle.

“We know West Nile is here in our community. It’s very prevalent in our area, so we treat all mosquitoes as if they have them.” said Environmental Health Director Anthony Spanel.

With heavy rain we have experienced the last week, mosquitoes are planned to increase as well.

“As we continue to get rain, the mosquito populations are just going to explode. With the amount of rain we got, we may have a big population that comes out and you’ll start seeing the biting mosquitoes in the coming weeks,” said Spanel.

Experts are saying what we need to get rid of the mosquitoes is a long freeze, like we experience in the winter. However, that won’t eliminate all mosquitoes.

“There are mosquitoes, the larva stage [that] can survive over the winter,” said Milton.

Physicians say that you could have already had been exposed to West Nile, but because you have a strong enough antibodies, it didn’t impact you the way it would someone with a weaker immune system like a child or the elderly.

“It’s just a very small, kind of tip of the iceberg of people who actually get sick enough to go to the doctor. Much less smaller that would actually have to be hospitalized and taken care of. It’s very possible we have already been exposed to West Nile and not ever have known that,” said Milton.

While mosquitoes are still present and will be until a long freeze, the City of Amarillo is advising people to stay clear of standing water and places that may attract mosquitoes and obey “The Four D’s."

Drain … and Mow – Tip, toss and drain the water from all containers around your property. Adult mosquitoes prefer to rest on weeds and other vegetation. Residents can reduce the number of areas where adult mosquitoes can find shelter by cutting down weeds adjacent to the house foundation or yards and mowing the lawn regularly. To further reduce adult mosquitoes harboring in vegetation, insecticides may be applied to the lower limbs of shade trees, shrubs and other vegetation. Always read and follow label directions before using any pesticide.

Deet – Apply insect repellent on exposed skin and clothing when you go outdoors. Use an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) registered insect repellent, and re-apply if you are outside for long periods of time. Look for these active ingredients recommended by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the EPA: DEET, picaridin, IR3535, and plant-based oil of lemon eucalyptus (do not use this product on children under the age of 3 years).

Dress – Wear long sleeve shirts and long pants and socks while outdoors to prevent mosquitoes.

Daily Avoid Mosquitoes – The mosquitoes that spread West Nile Virus bite between dusk and dawn. Limit the amount of time you spend outdoors during these hours. If you are outside, be sure to wear repellent and protective clothing.

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