Wet Weather A Mosquito Paradise

An aedes aegypti mosquito is shown on human skin in a file photo, date and location not known, from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Arkansas Health Department officials said Monday, Aug. 5, 2002, they have detected the first known case of the mosquito-transmitted West Nile virus infecting a person in Arkansas AP

Northern New Jersey just emerged from its wettest June on record, and the soggy weather has kept biologist Bill Evans and his crew of mosquito killers working around the clock.

"We start our work day at seven and I was here to eight last night, and I had to go home," says Evans.

The influx of mosquitos following the spate of wet day has increased fears of exposure to West Nile virus, an illness carried and transmitted by mosquitos.

The virus first appeared in the Northeast four years ago, killing four people. By last year West Nile had spread to 40 states, killing 284. The rain, followed by a week of hot temperatures, has created ideal breeding conditions for the pesky, needle-nosed mosquitos, reports CBS News Correspondent Jim Axelrod.

"It does create new challenges and particularly the challenge with West Nile virus and mosquito control," says Brad Campbell, of the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection Agency.

And another dangerous mosquito-transported disease has intensified this past, wet spring, and it's not only threatening to humans.

A pathogen called eastern equine encephalitis is popping up on scientists' radar screens, and as the name suggests, it targets both man and horse.

"Eastern encephalitis and West Nile virus would be the two biggest threats to the horse population in New Jersey after all this rain," says veterinarian Wendy Vaala.

They're also worried near Charleston, South Carolina, where eastern equine encephalitis has already claimed five horses, and in Brunswick, Georgia, where a 78-year-old man died.

"It's better to be a horse, because we have vaccines for both eastern encephalitis and West Nile," says Vaala. "We don't have vaccines for people of either of those diseases."

It's that missing vaccine that makes the work of these people all the more important.
  • Jaime Holguin

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