West Nile Makes Early Return

A ladle of water from a storm drain tells the story. West Nile infected mosquitoes are back in force this year, a month earlier than usual.
A ladle of water from a storm drain tells the story. West Nile infected mosquitoes are back in force this year, a month earlier than usual.

We've heard a lot about the threat of the bird flu - but the West Nile virus is already here.

Two pools of mosquitos tested positive for the West Nile virus in Vanderburgh County, and earlier than usual.

It's not a glamorous job, but an important one. Everyday, Justin Manning, of the Vanderburgh County Health Department's Rodent & Vector Control, checks dozens of catch basins for signs of mosquitos.

This year, he's using a new product that's supposed to release larva-killing ingredients slowly, over the next four months. And a completely different product is used to kill off the infant mosquitos.

They're a nuisance - but also have the potential to be deadly.

Already this summer, two samples came back positive for the West Nile virus, a full month ahead of last year's first finding.

But Manning says, "Just because we found these two positives earlier this year, doesn't mean it's going to be any worse than last year, but it is something to take seriously."

So he's checking out reports of suspicious birds too. He tests dead blue jays, crows, raptors, robins and cardinals, because they're the species most likely to die from West Nile.

"A guy just called in and said he had a dead robin," Manning says, but this one can't be tested because it's been dead over 24 hours.

When in doubt, manning says, "Call us and we can make that determination. I'd rather come out and pick one up and it not be a good sample, than to not come up and pick up a good sample."

The public also needs to remain diligent about emptying mosquito breeding grounds, especially when there's no rain to flush them out naturally.

Even though Manning hasn't received many complaints about adult mosquitos lately, it doesn't mean they're not out there. "It's just that people are becoming numb to it once again. West Nile is an old story now, and we want to make sure it stays up in the forefront of people's minds."