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Mosquito population kept in check so far, district official says

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ODESSA — Despite heavy rainfall this summer, Pasco’s mosquito control chief says, the number of the pests has remained pretty much steady — so far.

A bit of a drying period this week has aided mosquito control efforts, Pasco Mosquito Control District Director Dennis Moore said.

Ordinarily, mosquitoes thrive in puddles and other standing water where they can lay their eggs, Moore explains. Despite extra moisture this season, however, the mosquito population this year is “fairly normal,” he said

That could change in a hurry, Moore cautioned, if a hurricane or tropical storm such as Debby, in June 2012, drenches the area. Heavy rains already have saturated the soil, so a downpour likely could lead to flooding, he said. That would provide many more breeding grounds for the insects.

The mosquito season has almost reached its midpoint, Moore said, yet spraying insecticide has kept the pests in check.

For the most part, the Odessa-based mosquito district has not had to resort much to its last line of defense, its airplane can spray repellent on adult mosquito infestations, Moore noted.

Helicopter crews, however, are flying missions almost daily to spray mosquito larvae in marshes and other low-lying areas. Other crews are driving trucks many nights of the week to spray insecticide in neighborhoods.

The control district uses sentinel chickens to help detect diseases spread by mosquitoes, but no traces have emerged so far this season, Moore added.

On July 16, however, a horse in Central Pasco became infected with the mosquito-borne to Eastern equine encephalitis virus, Moore said. Although such cases are rare, the mortality rate of the disease in horses is high, Moore said. The horse was put to sleep.

In addition, each year a handful of people in the United States are infected with the EEE virus. They often exhibit few if any of the symptoms of the disease, which include headache, high fever, chills, and vomiting. In later stages of EEE infections people can experience disorientation, seizures, coma.

In addition, EEE can induce high body temperatures and swelling of the brain in victims, Moore explained. People who get the virus might mistake its symptoms at first as a flu bug.

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