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Bzzz ... Mosquitoes are back!

PRINCETON — The Bureau/Putnam County Health Department says it’s not too soon to be thinking about mosquitoes and West Nile Virus.

Kurt Kuchle, director of health protection for the two-county health department, said the health department has begun its surveillance program to detect possible West Nile Virus (WNV) activity in the local area. The surveillance program consists of testing mosquitoes collected from traps and also submitting dead birds for testing at the state lab.

The mosquito traps are placed each year in the vicinity of public access/gathering areas in both Bureau and Putnam counties. The health department has four traps, with typically three of those traps placed in Bureau County and one trap in Putnam County.

Each county is allowed five birds for testing this year, Kuchle said. The state of Illinois has directed local health departments that they may begin collecting birds. The public is encouraged to help locate birds that may have died from West Nile Virus.

According to the Illinois Department of Public Health, birds that can be submitted for WNV testing must have been dead less than 12 hours and the carcass must not have obvious signs of trauma, such as being struck by a vehicle, window or animal attack. The carcass must not show any decay or have a strong odor. Birds dying from WNV are usually found singly, scattered over a wide area. In contrast, birds that die from other causes, such as storm mortality, food poisoning or toxicants, often die in groups or clusters.

As far as the extent of this year’s mosquito activity, Kuchle said it can be expected that mosquito activity has been delayed with the cooler spring. However, once the weather warms up consistently, the mosquito population will recover quickly. The Culex mosquito and the West Nile Virus itself thrive in hot dry summers, he said.

However, if the area does have a cool wet summer, there may still be a lot of biting/nuisance/non-vector mosquitoes, but just a low incidence of West Nile Virus across Illinois, Kuchle said.

“At this point I don’t think anyone can predict with much certainty,” he said.

As far as funding for the WNV surveillance program, Bureau/Putnam County Health Department administrator Diana Rawlings said the local health department no longer receives a WNV grant, but does receive a Vector control grant which covers WNV surveillance and education as well as surveillance, testing and education for other vectors such as bats and ticks.

Comment on this story at www.bcrnews.com.

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