Spring is here and with spring comes mosquitoes. With mosquitoes comes the inevitable news of some mosquito being found to have West Nile Virus. West Nile Virus is a mosquito born illness that was isolated, for a time, to the Nile river of Eastern Africa. In recent decades though the WNV has gone completely global. In cases the WNV has been known to be fatal if left untreated.
How Do They Find West Nile Virus?
If you watch the news you will hear a few times a year that ‘authorities have found a mosquito positive for west nile virus’. If you are like me you immediately wonder, ‘How in the world did they find that one mosquito which had the West Nile Virus?’
Come to find out, the process is not that complicated.
- First you grab a good sized sample of mosquitoes from a particular area. Biologists, entomologists, wildlife professionals will use a ovitrap, carbon dioxide, light, or other trap to collect a large sample of mosquitoes in a particular area. If there are dead animals, namely birds, in the area the experts might test the animals/birds for west nile virus to tip them off that the virus is in the area.
- The mosquito sample collected will then be tested through a reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction test, know as RT-PCR for short (we had to look it up). This will help scientists to spot the west nile virus in a mosquito or other animal.
- Authorities will then report their findings to local entities as well as the Center for Disease Control, which keeps some pretty solid data on the movements of west nile virus.
So when the news says that biologists found a mosquito that tested positive for West Nile Virus you can tell everyone at the party that it was this big process of catching a bunch of mosquitoes and then testing them to determine the presence of west nile in your area.
Keeping Mosquitoes Away
To keep mosquitoes away local authorities will put resources into minimizing the mosquito populations. Sprays or water treatments to ponds or reservoirs are areas that officials will focus on. Around your home you can do similar things to prevent the growth of mosquitoes as well. Eliminating standing water, having a professional spray treatment done as well as protecting yourself and family with DEET or permethrin on your body or clothes respectively will help to keep mosquitoes and West Nile Virus exposure at minimums.
Currently there is no direct treatment for West Nile Virus. Medical professionals will utilize a host of options for replacing fluids, rest, and other ailments. However there still is no cure or vaccination.
Keep current with the CDC website and the information they list for local and national trends.