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West Nile numbers down, but all could change

Louisiana is seeing less mosquitoes and the diseases they carry. Airplanes and trucks have been spraying more than usual, and the weather has also helped fight the insects.

In Jefferson Parish, 30 trucks go out each night to wage war. They spray a derivative of the chrysanthemum flower to control mosquito populations, and it appears as if they are making headway.

"We had a bloom in March, and then the populations came down," said Steve Pavlovich with the firm Mosquito Control Services.

Mosquito populations are down this Fourth of July and so is the deadly virus they spread. Last year at this time, 12 Jefferson Parish samples came back positive with West Nile; this year, there's been just one.

"The mosquito numbers have been beaten down by the trucks and aircraft, and it should be much more pleasant," said Pavlovich.

Statewide, it's a similar story. Last year at this time, we had four cases; this year, has been another story.

"So far we are at the end of June," said Dr. Raoult Ratard with the La. Dept of Health and Hospitals. "And we still don't have a single human case."

A cooler spring was a big help in keeping mosquito populations down. "It's all due to weather, temperature, and rain," said Dr Ratard.

While Louisiana seems to have West Nile under control, our neighbors are having problems. Mississippi has recorded its first West Nile death of 2013, along with two new human cases. So far, Louisiana hasn't recorded a single human case.

"The impression is it will be a mild season, the opposite of last year, which was one of the highest," said Ratard.

It's important to point out that the worst part of the summer West Nile season is still ahead. Pavlovich says, "It can all change quickly, depending on the weather patterns."

And state health officials say it's important for everyone to keep their guard up.

Use mosquito sprays with Deet, especially during the evening hours.  Also dump any tires or bowls holding standing water, which are breeding grounds for mosquito.

"We have our trucks going out every night, and during summer we often work on weekends," said Pavlovich.

It's a constant battle, which for now at least appears to be under control.

In 2011, there were 12 reported West Nile cases. That's a far cry for the record year of 2002, when 328 cases were reported in the state of Louisiana.

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