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What can the city of Abilene expect this summer in terms of mosquito population? Will there be another case of West Nile virus like in 2023?

To find out, the Reporter-News accompanied Abilene Health Inspector Jim Neitenbach on May 29.

Health inspectors from the city’s environmental health team are required to conduct mosquito testing every two months to monitor mosquito species in the area and the presence of any mosquito-borne diseases.

Abilene Health Inspector Jim Neitenbach pours mosquitoes into a collection container to be sent to an Austin lab for testing on May 29.Abilene Health Inspector Jim Neitenbach pours mosquitoes into a collection container to be sent to an Austin lab for testing on May 29.

Abilene Health Inspector Jim Neitenbach pours mosquitoes into a collection container to be sent to an Austin lab for testing on May 29.

A state lab in Austin recently conducted a mosquito survey and found no mosquito-borne diseases. However, two different species of mosquitoes were found, some of which are present in large numbers in some city parks.

Checking the traps

Health inspectors have set up eight mosquito traps around Abilene to get a good sample from across the city. They’re looking for everything from West Nile virus to St. Louis encephalitis virus to Eastern equine encephalomyelitis.

Test sites include four city parks, two sites at the Abilene Zoo, and two local industrial sites. The test sites with the highest mosquito counts were the city parks, where two different mosquito species were found.

Health inspectors from Abilene monitor the city to learn about the local mosquito population and the diseases they transmit.Abilene health inspectors monitor the city to learn about the local mosquito population and the diseases they may transmit.

Abilene health inspectors monitor the city to learn about the local mosquito population and the diseases they may transmit.

The Culex quinquefasciatus mosquito was the most common mosquito during the May 29 survey. This medium-sized mosquito needs standing water to lay about 100 to 300 eggs at a time, according to the CDC.

Only a single infestation of another mosquito species, Anopheles punctipennis, was detected in the state laboratory.

However, tests showed that no mosquito-borne diseases were detected in the city and inspectors intend to keep it that way.

West Nile virus discovered in 2023

Because Abilene experienced a hot and dry summer in 2023, inspectors found only a single case of West Nile virus in late summer last year. It was discovered in close proximity to the Abilene Zoo and inspectors immediately treated the 2.5-mile (4 km) perimeter.

WNV is the most common mosquito-borne disease in Abilene, Neitenbach said.

The CDC points out that the disease is most commonly transmitted through mosquito bites and can cause symptoms such as fever, headache, body aches, vomiting, diarrhea or rash.

A mosquito caught in a trap is tested for West Nile virus.A mosquito caught in a trap is tested for West Nile virus.

A mosquito caught in a trap is tested for West Nile virus.

There are no vaccines or medicines that can prevent the symptoms of this disease. About one in 150 people experience serious complications. In some cases, the disease can be fatal.

The goal of Abilene health inspectors is to prevent these negative effects, so they rarely spray mosquito repellent in response to nuisance complaints.

Neitenbach said if inspectors sprayed regularly throughout the summer, mosquitoes in Abilene might develop resistance to the chemicals used to kill them.

Instead, they hope to kill the mosquitoes as soon as the first signs of mosquito-borne disease are detected.

City Health Inspector Jim Neitenbach picks up a mosquito testing kit on May 29, 2024. The captured mosquitoes were then sent to a state lab in Austin where they were tested for various diseases.City Health Inspector Jim Neitenbach picks up a mosquito testing kit on May 29, 2024. The captured mosquitoes were then sent to a state lab in Austin where they were tested for various diseases.

City Health Inspector Jim Neitenbach picks up a mosquito testing kit on May 29, 2024. The captured mosquitoes were then sent to a state lab in Austin where they were tested for various diseases.

When disease is detected, inspectors typically spray between 11 p.m. and 3 a.m. to reduce the impact of the harmless chemicals on citizens, Neitenbach said. Inspectors spray the area within a 2.5-mile radius of the infected mosquito and conduct weekly tests afterward.

Neitenbach said the virus is usually carried to the Abilene area by migratory birds and then bitten by mosquitoes. Those mosquitoes then bite people and transmit the disease to them.

Neitenbach’s practice is the last stop to prevent the spread of these diseases to humans. Read his tips for a mosquito-free summer here in the Big Country below.

Tips to Avoid Mosquitoes in Your Garden This Summer

  • If you are outside between dusk and dawn, wear long-sleeved and loose-fitting clothing to avoid being bitten.

  • Use insect repellent containing DEET to prevent mosquito-borne diseases

  • Empty the pet bowls completely every evening and clean them thoroughly to prevent mosquito larvae from accumulating in them.

  • Empty children’s pools frequently to prevent mosquitoes from laying their eggs in them.

  • Drill holes in all flower pots to avoid standing water in them.

  • Clear clogged gutters where standing water can collect.

  • Discard used tires that collect standing water on your property.

  • Make sure there is no standing water on your property.

This article originally appeared on Abilene Reporter-News: What is this rumor? City reports mosquito findings for Abilene