Sanitarian Rob Sproul said his health department tried to get a mosquito spraying truck years ago - but Ohio health officials told him it was not needed in Belmont County.
Why? Because the area is hilly, meaning rain water is more likely to roll down hills, washing away any potential stagnant water, which is the type mosquitoes love to breed in, he said.
With the recent increase in cases of West Nile virus in people across the country, including nine cases in Ohio, local public health officials, and the public, may be thankful they live in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains right about now.
In this Aug. 7 photo, the captured mosquitos from one gravid trap taken to Dallas County Mosquito Lab.
But for those in flatter areas, such as central Ohio, state health officials say drought conditions and heat across the state mean that Ohioans can expect to see more of the mosquitoes that spread the virus.
The latest case - an adult woman who did not require hospitalization - was confirmed Wednesday in Clark County in west-central Ohio, but the virus has been found in mosquito pools tested statewide, Ohio Department of Health spokeswoman Tessie Pollock said. No West Nile deaths have been reported in Ohio so far this year.
Sproul said most people would assume more water would mean more opportunities for mosquitoes to lay eggs. But it is quite the opposite.
FIGHTING THE BITE
- For many mosquitoes, peak hours are dusk and dawn.
- Use insect repellent that contains DEET, picaridin, IR3535 or oil of lemon eucalyptus on exposed skin and clothing when outdoors. Always follow package directions.
- Mosquitoes can lay eggs in small amounts of standing water.
Source: West Virginia Bureau of Public Health
''Stagnant water is what they breed in. When they're not hit by storms, they're not getting flushed out,'' Sproul said.
The latest Ohio case comes as areas in Texas are coping with a West Nile virus outbreak that Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings on Wednesday declared a state of emergency. He has authorized the first aerial spraying of insecticide in the city in more than 45 years to try to halt the spread of the virus there. Texas health department statistics show 381 cases and 16 deaths related to West Nile in Texas.
Drought and heat in Ohio in recent months have increased the prevalence of the Culex mosquito that transmits West Nile. The mosquito prefers to breed in organically rich water sources, such as water in the process of evaporating from ditches and catch basins where leaves and other matter accumulate, Pollock said.
"The heat speeds up the life cycle, so the adults mature faster," she said.
The health department confirmed the first human case of 2012 in July, a month earlier than in recent years, and that usually indicates West Nile will be more prevalent, Pollock said. Three cases have been reported in Cuyahoga County in northeast Ohio and single cases in Lorain, Putnam, Sandusky, Clark, Clermont and Miami counties. Pollock said positive pools of mosquitoes this year are tracking similar to 2002, when there were 441 cases and 31 deaths in Ohio. Last year, 21 human cases were confirmed, with one death.
While most people develop no symptoms or mild symptoms, about 1 in 150 of those infected develop a severe form such as West Nile encephalitis, meningitis or poliomyelitis. Severe symptoms include headache, high fever, coma, convulsions and paralysis. Those with weakened immune systems - including people with underlying medical conditions, infants and the elderly - are most at risk, Pollock said.
Howard Gamble, Wheeling-Ohio County Health Department administrator, said there have been no human cases of West Nile in West Virginia this year. He said people, however, should still take steps to protect themselves from the biting insects. For example, now that the summer swimming season is winding down, people should remember to turn over their wading pools and other toys that often collect water.
''People should clean out their gutters, especially if they're clogged up,'' Gamble added.
For those who don't want to wear long-sleeved shirts and pants, mosquito repellant is recommended for those venturing outdoors early in the morning or late in the evening.
''West Virginia doesn't have a spraying program. The funding is not there for it or the immediate need,'' Gamble added.
Sproul said the type of birds that most often die from the virus are blue jays and crows. If people see large numbers of such birds dead, they should call their health department, he said. In humans, those typically impacted are younger than 16 years old or older than 50 years old, he noted.