West Nile Virus detected in St. John mosquitoes

Published 12:12 am Saturday, June 16, 2018

LAPLACE — “Attention: Mosquitoes that can carry encephalitis have been found in your neighborhood, and we need your help.”

Yellow pamphlets with that message were placed on residential doors within a mile of the Belle Terre subdivision this week, a response to five mosquito samples collected in LaPlace testing positive for West Nile virus.

A single sample contains up to 100 mosquitoes, according to Sam Stines, chief biologist for Mosquito Control Services. The five infected samples originated near the southern end of Belle Terre, stretching back toward U.S. 51.

St. John Mosquito Control also detected positive cases of the West Nile Virus in Lucy.

Encephalitis, the medical term for inflammation of the brain, is a potentially fatal symptom of West Nile virus impacting approximately 1 out of 150 infected people, according to the CDC.

Luckily, 8 out of 10 people who contract West Nile virus never experience symptoms, according to Stines.

Stines said 1 in 5 infected people develop cold or flu like symptoms coupled with fatigue. To minimize effects of the virus in St. John the Baptist Parish, the Mosquito Control Services office in Reserve asks residents to monitor standing water that could turn into mosquito breeding grounds.

“It takes one week for mosquitoes to mature from eggs to adults,” Stines said. “It doesn’t take long to walk around your backyard once a week and clean out gutters, toys and birdbaths holding water.”

Wearing light colored clothing and insect repellent when outside after dusk also provides protection.

According to Stines, LaPlace residents who received pamphlets can expect increased activity from Mosquito Control Services. Personnel are monitoring the area, sending out mosquito trucks, spraying drainage systems and treating water breeding grounds.

Stines said a variety of traps collect dozens of samples around St. John the Baptist Parish each week, and the traps that see the most activity dictate where services are focused.

According to Stines, West Nile virus is brought to the River Parishes through blue jays, black birds and birds of prey. Mosquitoes contract the virus by feeding on birds, and prevalence of the virus increases with dry conditions.

“One phenomenon we get nervous about is when there is a long, hot drought with little rain, as we had over the month of May,” Stines said. “That’s when we see an amplification of West Nile because birds and mosquitoes are essentially living together, utilizing the same water sources.”

Below are safety tips:
Protecting People
  • If outside, wear a mosquito repellent containing DEET. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) does not recommend use of repellents with more than 30 percent DEET for children. Insect repellents are not recommended for children younger than 2 months of age. CDC recommends following the recommendations appearing on the product label when using repellent.
  • Apply repellent on exposed skin and clothing – do not apply under clothes or on broken skin
  • To apply repellent to face, spray on hands and rub on face, avoiding eyes
  • Adults should always apply repellent to children
  • Wear long-sleeved shirts and pants when outdoors for long periods of time
  • Avoid perfumes and colognes when outdoors for extended periods of time
Protecting Your Home
  • Make sure all windows and doors are tight-fitting and screens are free of holes
  • Eliminating standing water where mosquitoes breed
  • Dispose of tin cans, ceramic pots and other unnecessary containers
  • Turn over wheelbarrows, plastic wading pools, buckets, trash cans, children’s toys or anything that could collect water
  • Drill holes in the bottom of outdoor recycling containers
  • Check and clean roof gutters routinely, as they can produce millions of mosquitoes each season
  • Aerate ornamental pools or stock them with fish; water gardens can become major mosquito producers if they are allowed to stagnate
  • Clean and chlorinate swimming pools that are not being used
  • For more information, please visit www.mosquitocs.com or call 985-536-6530.

— St. John Parish Communications contributed to this report.