Mosquito surveillance underway in Johnson County - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Mosquito surveillance underway in Johnson County

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A mosquito surveillance program is underway in Johnson County to track the potential spread of diseases, like Zika and West Nile Virus.

The Johnson County Public Health department has teamed up with Iowa State University, the Iowa Department of Public Health, and the State Hygienic Laboratory for the second straight year. While the department said it's unlikely to see mosquitoes that can carry the Zika virus here, they say this type of surveillance will them know more, if the unlikely happens.

"The trap is designed to mimic a mosquito-breeding habitat. We got water at the bottom of the trap," Johnson County Environmental Specialist, Jason Decker, explains as he collects mosquitoes from one of their seven traps they set up at Lake MacBride State Park. 

Once a week, they collect mosquitoes that got caught on a sticky paper inside the trap. Decker said they check two of the other traps three times a week.

After collecting the mosquitoes from the traps, they sent them to Iowa State, where they will be counted and identified by their species.

"The CDC has been looking into the prevalence of mosquitoes and some of the invasive mosquito types with the prevalence of some of the mosquito-born diseases that we're seeing again," James Lacina, Johnson County Public Health Environmental Health Manager, said.

Lacina said, through this, they're able to see if any mosquito species that can carry West Nile or Zika are in the area.

"This is a part of a nationwide, a statewide, surveillance program where we're looking to identify to those areas where mosquitoes are expanding into," Lacina said.

He said, though it's unlikely that they'll find any mosquitoes that could carry Zika, the surveillance is key to making sure it doesn't spread to Iowa.

"It's not to say that we would find it but, if we find those species of mosquitoes, they are potential infectors for carrying that disease to Iowa. So, this is an early warning system to help us determine that," he said.

Decker said the mosquito count is currently low. Lacina added they'll likely see more come late July into August, which he said is the peak season for them.

In Iowa last year, there were 12 reported cases of the West Nile virus.

Lacina said it's important for people to take precautions to protect themselves from mosquito and tick-borne diseases, such as wearing long pants and using insect repellant.

A recent study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that disease cases from mosquito and tick bites have tripled in the U.S. from 2004 to 2016. 

Fever, headache, body aches, vomiting, diarrhea, or a rash are common symptoms of a mosquito-borne illness. Severe illness could lead to encephalitis or meningitis. Lacina reminds people who suspect they have a mosquito-borne illness to see a physician.

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