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West Nile Prediction

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West Nile Prediction
By Wendy Ray

Mosquitoes are back, and so are concerns about the West Nile Virus. In fact, some health leaders say the mosquito-borne illness could be an even bigger problem this year. Some are fearing it will be worse, because now more species of mosquitos are infected.

Dr. Ed Masters has done his share of mosquito research. He says, "This is likely to be a huge problem this year." He also says even though most cases of human West Nile Virus are mild, doesn't mean there's not cause for concern. "It's not just going to be the elderly or the immune compromised people," Dr. Masters says. "It's going to be young people too."

Masters says they're looking at the history of St. Louis encephalitis as a model. The second year the virus was tracked was worse than the first. "They're fearful that's what may happen to West Nile this year, that last year it was planting the garden, this year it will be full bloom," Dr. Masters says.

Kevin Gillespie with the Jackson County Health Department says the state of Illinois is doing what it can to prevent the spread of West Nile. Last year, there were close to 900 human cases in Illinois, resulting in 64 deaths. "We look for certain indications that West Nile is in the area, we'll be testing dead birds and trapping mosquitoes, as well as field tests," Gillespie says.

Both Gillespie, and Dr. Masters agree the best way to get rid of mosquitoes is to eliminate breeding grounds, anywhere standing water can accumulate. "If you can control mosquitoes now, they don't have a chance to breed again and again. Mosquitoes killed now are worth a whole lot more than a lot of mosquitoes killed later in the year," Dr. Masters says.

Dr. Masters and a friend have actually invented a mosquito and tick trap that should be on the shelves by June. It's an effort to catch mosquitoes or ticks that may be infected, and spread diseases.

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