Sedgwick County officials are trapping mosquitoes throughout the county in the hope of reducing the number of West Nile virus infections and mapping other potentially disease-carrying mosquitoes.
Christopher Rogers, a crustacean taxonomist and ecologist with the Kansas Biological Survey, demonstrated two types of mosquito traps outside the Great Plains Nature Center on Thursday. One traps mosquitoes that might carry West Nile virus or Eastern or Western Equine Encephalitis; the other traps the species of mosquito that carries the Zika virus.
Once the mosquitoes are trapped, Rogers said he will identify those belonging to disease-carrying species and then analyze them to determine whether they are infected.
There are approximately 50 species of mosquito in Kansas, Rogers said, only half of which bite. Only the females of those species bite, which they do when they need to lay eggs because human blood provides a protein source for developing embryos, Rogers said.
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The Sedgwick County Health Department recommends residents follow the “Three D’s” of mosquito-bite prevention: Drain, DEET and Dress.
Residents should drain any standing water, which mosquitoes use to breed; use insect repellents that contain DEET, which offers the best protection against mosquito bites; and dress in long, loose-fitting clothing when outdoors, especially at dawn and dusk.
West Nile virus is spread to humans by the bite of an infected mosquito; it cannot be spread person-to-person or mammal-to-person. The health department recommends that a person showing severe symptoms such as disorientation, tremors, convulsions, vision loss, numbness or paralysis seek medical attention immediately.
Although the county is concerned about Zika, at this point there is no sign of the disease in the Kansas mosquito population, Rogers said.
In February 2016, the World Health Organization declared Zika a public health emergency of international concern, and athletes including golfer Rory McIlroy and cyclist Tejay van Garderen have cited worries about the Zika virus in their decision to withdraw from the summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.
Rogers said he has placed the traps that attract the potentially Zika-carrying mosquito species across the state so that if Zika shows up in the Kansas mosquito population, he will be able to identify areas where infected mosquitoes might gather.