- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 6, 2006

Local health officials said yesterday that recent rain has significantly increased the mosquito population and that residents should again guard against mosquito-transmitted diseases such as West Nile virus.

Maryland Department of Agriculture officials detected the increase last weekend, days after torrential rain created pools of standing water. Cy Lesser, chief of the agency’s mosquito-control division, said the storms resulted in so much standing water that the region’s mosquito population might be at its peak for the summer.

The West Nile virus has not been detected in Maryland this year.

“But we’re at that time of the year where historically it’s likely to occur,” Mr. Lesser said.

The virus has been detected in Fairfax County, where officials have been trapping and testing mosquitoes since May 1.

The county has tested more than 1,000 samples containing about 31,000 mosquitoes, and one sample tested positive for the West Nile virus last week.

“It’s a little bit early,” said Jorge Arias, an environmental health entomologist for the county. “We expected it a little bit later because we had a cool spring.”

Mr. Lesser agreed, saying the large mosquito population was unexpected because the cool, dry spring spawned only a small number of the insects.

However, the early detection does not pose a greater threat of contracting West Nile, Mr. Arias said.

“Everybody knows that West Nile virus is out there,” he said.

Mr. Lesser also said Maryland regularly sprays residential areas with pesticides and traps mosquitoes to test them for diseases.

Health officials from the District and Arlington and Prince George’s counties did not return phone messages yesterday.

Residents should protect against mosquito bites by wearing long pants and long-sleeve shirts, using insect repellant that has DEET as an active ingredient, and avoiding the outdoors during the early morning and at sunset.

They also should remove from their yards containers that collect water, including old tires and trays for potted plants.

Most people who contract the West Nile virus do not experience symptoms, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Of those who become infected with the virus, 20 percent may contract West Nile fever, which can include a high temperature, headaches, body aches, fatigue and rashes.

The most severe and rarest of cases is the neuroinvasive disease, which attacks the nervous system and is most common in people 50 or older.

The federal agency reports that four cases of neuroinvasive West Nile disease have occurred nationwide this year since June 27.

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