West Nile Virus Still A Threat? - KAIT Jonesboro, AR - Region 8 News, weather, sports

Jonesboro, AR--Brad Bean Reports

West Nile Virus Still A Threat?

August 3, 2005--Posted at 10:21 PM CST

JONESBORO--The first case of West Nile virus happened in 1999, and since then, consumers have been inundated with repellents, sprays, and machines. The lack of rainfall this year has kept the mosquito population down somewhat, but what about west Nile.

The West Nile virus has killed nearly 500 people in this country. Because mosquitos carry the virus, Region 8 residents constantly deal with the threat.

Fear sells. After the first case of West Nile in 1999, consumers saw more bug killing methods than ever before. The insect fogger, mosquito beater, and the magnet; all developed to soothe your fears. But does the threat still remain?

Entomologist Tanja McKay said, "When you have a wet spring and a dry summer, West Nile seems to very abundant, a big problem."

Compare the numbers: by August first of 2003, Arkansas reported 45 cases of the virus and in 2004, at the same time, 28. Now this year, two.

KAIT Chief Meteorologist Chad Watson said, "The lack of rain fall definitely affects the mosquito population around here. Now how is that going to blend out as we get towards the end of the year? That is another story."

History shows that more cases of West Nile occur in August and September. So while the West Nile numbers are far off the pace now, the final stats won't be in until the fall.

"In looking in the seasonality of West Nile, August and September are our really high months," McKay said.

In the end, Dr. McKay says we may be the reason for the lack of West Nile cases. As with the flu and the common cold, our bodies do adapt to invaders.

"In 1999, 2000, and 2001 when we saw large numbers of West Nile, it was a new thing that we were exposed to. So, since we have been exposed to it, our bodies might be changing," McKay said.

There have been only two reported cases of West Nile virus in a person this summer: one each in Boone and Sebastian counties.

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