West Nile-Carrying Mosquitoes Have Been Detected In Louisiana Earlier Than Usual This Year

Every year, state-employed entomologists collect thousands of mosquitoes from traps located in urban, suburban and rural areas. Entomologists test each captured mosquito for diseases that can be transmitted to humans. In Louisiana, infected mosquitoes are not usually found until May or later, but this year the first infected mosquito found in the state turned up on March 2nd near a Baton Rouge elementary school. While infected mosquitoes in Louisiana have been found earlier in the year a few times in the past, March is an unusually early time of year for infected mosquitoes to be turning up in urban areas of Baton Rouge, especially considering that August is usually when the first infected mosquitoes are found in the city.

The captured mosquito specimen was carrying bacteria that cause the West Nile virus, and in response to the discovery, a mosquito abatement program is already being carried out within a one mile radius of where the infected specimen was found. However, nighttime insecticide spraying has not yet started in the area due to low evening temperatures and high wind speeds, and aerial spraying starts later in the summer seasons. According to experts, it may be weeks before another infected mosquito specimen is found, or the disease could start spreading fast among humans, there is no way to estimate how many people will contract the West Nile virus in Louisiana this year. In order to be on the safe side, officials with the mosquito abatement program are urging Baton Rouge residents to start taking precautions to avoid mosquito bites. These precautions include applying mosquito repellent before spending time outdoors, wearing long sleeves, avoiding the outdoors during the early morning and late afternoon hours when mosquitoes are most active, and keeping residential lawns free of containers that can gather water and serve as mosquito breeding sites. During 2019, at least 20 people in Louisiana contracted the West Nile virus, and two died from the disease.

Have you started taking precautions against mosquito bites?

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