ABILENE, Texas - The infamous West Nile virus has made a comeback in Abilene.
City officials learned Wednesday that Culex mosquitoes trapped in the northeast area of the city July 9 tested positive for the virus. Officials plan to begin spraying for mosquitoes Friday morning, weather permitting.
Spraying was not necessary in 2011; however, in 2012, the West Nile virus became a national epidemic, killing dozens of people.
Since local mosquitoes are testing positive for the virus, Environmental Health Manager Glenn Bailey said he will not take any risks this year.
"This year we're not sure what exactly is going to happen but we have the conditions in place to have an issue--to have a major issue," Bailey said.
Bailey said he expects the recent rains followed by projected warmer weather will lead to an explosion in the mosquito population by Monday or Tuesday.
"We should see an uptick in mosquitoes and we will do what we always do and that's monitor standing water in public right-of-ways for larvae development and then we will monitor our traps and respond accordingly," Bailey said.
Culex mosquitoes only travel about 150 feet away from their hatching site, which will be the target of city spraying.
According to Dr. Zane Travis with the Abilene-Taylor County Public Health District, three human cases of the virus were confirmed in the area last year. He said the virus is one to be taken seriously.
"Many people just have flu-like symptoms and that's it, but some people become unconscious and have encephalitis, severe headache, and have to be hospitalized with a spinal puncture," Travis said. "The other thing is that we find now that the people who had what we thought were mild West Nile cases may have long term side effects like memory loss that we don't suspect to start with."
Culex mosquitoes are most active in the two hours around dusk and dawn. They feed off of dead birds which carry the virus.
To keep mosquitoes from multiplying, empty all standing water no matter how much. To keep from getting infected, wear pants and long-sleeved shirts outdoors and use a repellent. Repellents containing DEET, Picardin or lemon Eucalyptus oil are considered the most effective.
If you do not have an air conditioner and choose to keep your doors and windows open for ventilation, make sure your screens are up-to-date to prevent mosquitoes from entering.