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Mosquito Numbers Are Down, But West Nile Risk Is Up

ST. PAUL, Minn. (WCCO) -- Waiting to hop on a riverboat at Harriet Island Regional Park, Louise Russell is still waiting to get her first mosquito bite of 2018.

"I haven't been bitten once this year yet," Russell said. "My daughter lives a few blocks away and she has a swimming pool. We haven't been bothered over there either."

There is a good possibility she will escape "skeeter" season unscathed.

As summer draws to a close, the Metropolitan Mosquito Control District claims the number of bugs in the state is going down.

But we have to watch out for the remaining ones.

West Nile
Samples of culex tarsalis, the mosquito that transmits the West Nile virus (credit: CBS)

"August tends to be the peak month for West Nile risk … [it] does occur at about the same time the nuisance mosquitoes disappear," said MMCD Vector Ecologist Kirk Johnson. "You can be out in your yard and not seeing any mosquitoes, but the mosquitoes that are present in low numbers are the ones that can transmit West Nile virus."

The agency has seen West Nile activity increase in the state in recent days. That means the bugs they are catching and testing have the virus, and that means you still need to use bug spray before going outside.

"Wearing mosquito repellent is still important at this time of year, even if you aren't being annoyed by mosquitoes," Johnson said.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, eight out of 10 people who are infected with West Nile do not develop any symptoms. In severe cases, it can become a life-threatening illness that affects the spinal cord or brain.

Mosquitoes typically die off in Minnesota after the first deep freeze in the fall, which usually happens in late September or early October.

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