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St. Louis County Prepares for Potentially Dangerous West Nile Season

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Getty/Justin Sullivan

Getty/Justin Sullivan

CBS St. Louis (con't)

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CLAYTON, MO (KMOX) - St. Louis County is calling out the troops to prevent a bumper crop of mosquitoes this spring from turning into a dangerous summer.

Last year was a banner year both for the sheer number of mosquitos and for the number carrying West Nile Virus, says Drew Hane at St. Louis County Vector Control.

This year will be worse.

“We have prime conditions out there right now. Today is a hot day and that will amplify the mosquitoes’ ability to reproduce and to mature faster in these waters,” Hane explained. “A little bit of water and hot, dry conditions really allow mosquitoes to breed and mature very quickly and it also creates an environment for the virus to replicate very quickly.”

For now the mosquitoes are largely just a nuisance since West Nile doesn’t typically appear until summertime. Hane says the spring offers a window of opportunity to knock out the mosquitoes before they become dangerous.

“We have field inspectors out dipping in the waters, testing them, seeing what kind of mosquito breeding is going on and then treating those waters,” he said. “Unfortunately, we are only able to touch publicly accessible waters.”

Hane says the area needs a large, flushing rain and people need to remove standing water from their own yards. He adds that sprayer trucks will be on the streets in about a week.

As for the disease’s virulence, some neurologists say last year’s West Nile Virus attacked the brain more aggressively and may have mutated into a nastier form. Dr. Sarah George, a St. Louis University infectious diseases specialist, says the jury is still out on that being the case this year.

“The fact is that other neurologists in other parts of the country last year weren’t seeing that or they were seeing different brain attacks and brain manifestations of the disease,” she explained. “So it’s just not yet clear that the virus is any more dangerous or virulent than it was previously.”

But George says viruses such as West Nile mutate and can be full of suprises so it is difficult to predict what can happen next.

“What I’m hearing is that the jury is still out,” she said.

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