- Associated Press - Friday, June 27, 2014

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - Repeated downpours in much of Iowa and Nebraska have created some standing water that’s led to an onslaught of mosquitoes and their pesky bites, but health officials say disease-carrying ones are not yet out in full force.

Dr. Patricia Quinlisk, medical director for the Iowa Department of Public Health, said mosquitoes that carry diseases like the West Nile Virus enjoy small stagnant puddles of water that are warm. The constant rain has actually prevented those conditions.

“This kind of rain is actually bad for them,” she said. “They don’t like this much water … certainly when there’s flooding it’s washing them all away, it’s not allowing them to have time to breed.”

Still, the conditions have been ideal for nuisance mosquitoes known for their annoying bites, said Kenneth Holscher, an entomology professor at Iowa State University.

“It’s more of those standard, low-lying areas that, if the ground is saturated enough, they’ll hold water every time it rains and so about a week to 10 days after every rain we’ll get a new batch of mosquitoes to deal with,” he said.

Every year, ISU entomology officials work with Iowa health officials and others to monitor mosquito populations in the state by placing traps. Holscher said more nuisance mosquitoes have been recorded in Iowa compared to this time last year. But it’s too early to tell what that could mean.

“We’re always going to have mosquitoes to some extent here in Iowa,” he said. “My concern would be more from a public health standpoint if we could somehow determine early on if this is going to be a concern for West Nile Virus or any other diseases and we can’t right now.”

Dr. Thomas Safranek, state epidemiologist for Nebraska’s Division of Public Health, said officials are aggressively monitoring mosquito populations around the state with similar traps. They have seen a similar pattern of nuisance mosquitoes.

“The warm, wet weather is predictability going to increase our mosquito counts, we’re starting to see that right now,” he said, but noted there’s no unusual or premature emergence of disease-carrying mosquitoes.

“It hasn’t started occurring in any way that we would be sending urgent messages saying we are escalating our level of concern and the urgency of our recommendation,” Safranek said.

Reports of mosquitoes that carry diseases like West Nile Virus come in at the end of the summer or early fall. For now, officials recommend people wear insect repellent to prevent bites from both mosquitoes and ticks.