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West Nile Virus-Carrying Mosquitos On The Rise In Twin Cities

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) -- We've had it pretty easy this summer when it comes to mosquitos. But after all our recent rain, more of them are out -- and some are carrying a life-altering virus.

The first West Nile-carrying mosquito the Metropolitan Mosquito Control District (MMCD) found this summer was a few weeks ago, according to entomologist Diann Crane.

"We collect adult mosquitos every Monday night at 138 locations around the metro area," Crane said.

Of the 285 mosquitos in a trap Crane was sorting through from the Fort Snelling area collected Monday, 37% of them were Culex, which can carry West Nile. She sends the Culex mosquitos down the hall to the lab, where they're tested for West Nile virus.

"This last week we saw about 20% of our mosquito samples testing positive for West Nile virus," said MMCD vector ecologist Kirk Johnson.

In its weekly traps and tests, the MMCD is finding West Nile in every county they serve, except Washington County. It's most common right now in Ramsey and Dakota counties.

West Nile Virus Testing Culex Mosquitos
(credit: CBS)

"We're seeing a lot more this year than we did that last two years," said Alex Carlson with the MMCD.

"This is the exact time of year you'd want to be wearing a mosquito repellant, with the West Nile risks starting to increase," Johnson said.

The type of mosquito that carries the virus thrives in standing water, so rain isn't a factor -- but our hot summer has made it worse.

"Even though you're not necessarily seeing a ton of mosquitos, the types of mosquitos that are out could be a little bit risky," Carlson said.

Those risks taper off when it starts getting colder at night, but it won't be completely gone until there until it consistently hits below freezing overnight.

"It's just that one mosquito bite that can cause a life-altering illness," Johnson said.

Culex mosquitos are most active at dusk. Long sleeves, long pants and bug spray are the best protection.

Finding dead crows or blue jays in your area could mean West Nile is around, because birds are the hosts that give it to mosquitos.

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