Wet, hot weather increases mosquito population

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Health investigators have now found mosquitoes infected with West Nile virus in nine Indiana counties.

The counties affected include: Adams, Allen, Clinton, Grant, Hamilton, Jefferson, Starke, Vanderburgh and Vigo counties.

Despite the infestation, the health department says there are no known human cases of the disease. Symptoms include fever, headache, neck stiffness, muscle weakness, and nausea. Some people who get infected never show any symptoms at all.

West Nile hasn't shown up at all yet in Marion County. Mosquitoes, however, are swarming over the city. This summer's been a perfect incubator for mosquitoes.The population is exploding. The Marion County Public Health Department figures this could be the worst outbreak in 30 years.

Mary Ann Meyer just finished playing in Garfield Park with her five children. Every one of them is a mosquito magnet.

"They've been worse than I expected early on," she said.

If county health department workers aren't killing mosquitoes, they are counting, classifying and testing them for viruses. Terry Gallagher of the Marion County Mosquito Control Division says monitoring traps are now catching three times more mosquitoes than in a typical summer.

"In Marion County, the mosquito population is very high and it will be for a couple of weeks," he said.

The frequent rain and now sweltering heat created a mosquito heaven. Thirty-three "trained killers" - employees of the Mosquito Control Division - are spraying and fogging their way across the county trying to turn the tide.

Two weeks without rain is helping. Many of the typical breeding grounds - ditches, culverts, and swamps that Tony Lantz is checking for larva - are bone dry.

Now health officials want homeowners to take the offensive.

"We found things like an upside down frisbee breeding mosquitoes," Gallagher said.

He recommends getting rid of old tires, checking unused flower pots, looking for clogged gutters, or a forgotten bucket.

"Look for anything that can hold water and empty those things out. That will go further than anything we can do in Mosquito Control," he insisted.

The health department is working day and night past midnight to get the mosquito population under control. If you are bugged out in your neighborhood, call its hotline at 317-221-7440 for help.

If mosquitoes are getting the best of you, the experts say use an EPA-approved bug repellent, avoid lingering outside from dusk to dawn, wear sleeves and pants.

Also, reconsider exercising outside. Your body creates additional carbon dioxide, which attracts mosquitoes.