Will this summer bite?


June 28th, 2011

Omaha, NE – Last year, there were a total of 39 reported human cases of West Nile Virus cases in Nebraska, and two deaths from the mosquito-transported disease. With the Missouri River at record levels, many are wondering what the summer will look like for mosquito bites.

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Health officials say 2011 shouldn't be a bad year for West Nile, despite the Missouri flooding. (Photo credit Wikimedia Commons)

“I was outside for probably an hour, and I got ate alive,” said LaTina Rencher, a summer youth program worker, as she watched children play at the Gene Leahy Mall downtown.

When asked how many mosquito bites she had so far this season, Rencher started to point them out on her right leg. “I don’t know, I stopped counting after eight,” she laughed.

Reid Steinkraus is in charge of sanitation control at the Douglas County Health Department. Steinkraus said he doesn’t expect it to be a bad season for West Nile, despite the Missouri flooding. He said the department checks for mosquito larvae once a week in large bodies of water, including the Missouri river. And he said so far, no mosquitoes or birds have tested positive for the disease in Douglas County, and no human cases of West Nile have been reported.

“The mosquitoes that we worry about transmitting West Nile Virus like to lay their eggs in cleaner water,” he said. “At this point, it’s difficult to say whether we’ll have cleaner water on the surface, or if it’ll be brackish from the river.”

Steinkraus said if people are going to be outside, they should use mosquito repellent and wear long clothing. He also said any type of sitting water, including bird baths and rain gutters, are mosquito breeding habitats, and should be changed once a week.

Back at the park, Rencher said at the summer youth program, they make sure the kids use bug repellent before they go outside. “The key is scentless bug spray,” she said. “Can’t use anything that smells good, it has be to be unscented.”

As for Rencher, she said she’ll be wearing long pants the rest of the summer.

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