St. Tammany researchers fight against West Nile - FOX 8 WVUE New Orleans News, Weather, Sports, Social

St. Tammany researchers fight against West Nile

ST. TAMMANY PARISH, LA (WVUE) -

Once mosquito larvae are detected, the fight to kill them begins.

Trucks from the St. Tammany Mosquito Abatement District deploy trucks spraying a biological material into ditches and canals.

"Generally, from late June to mid-August, it's the peak of the West Nile virus that we see in mosquitoes," said entomologist Kevin Caillouet.

Mosquitoes are out and biting, but the bugs aren't just a pain. They can also transmit diseases like encephalitis and West Nile.

In Louisiana, several people have already contracted the virus.

"You have to be able to know which species you're counting, so we know which species to target and we can target them in different sort of ways," Caillouet said.

He said last week West Nile was found in 14 of 78 mosquito pools throughout St. Tammany. A pool contains anywhere from 5 to 100 mosquitoes.

"This week we just got the results today, and that number came down to about 2 of 57 pools that are positive," Caillouet said.

Still, he said predicting the presence of West Nile from week to week can be tricky. Researchers are now going to the source of the virus, placing cameras in bird nests.

"Birds are actually finishing nesting this time of year. In that period of time, we have the most birds in the environment that have never seen the virus," Caillouet said.

The video shows the interaction between mosquitoes and newborn birds, which are most susceptible.

"We are actually trying to quantify the rate of mosquito landings on birds in the nest. We want to look at that to see how effective our controls are when we fly the airplane to spray and we can see if there's been a reduction," Caillouet said.

The Southern house mosquito, which transmits the virus, is active at night.

With an ultimate goal of preventing human cases of West Nile, researchers say they can't do it alone.

"People need to remain vigilant and wear repellent. Make sure that your kids have repellent when they're playing outside as well, but take the steps at your own house to avoid and eliminate breeding sources of mosquitoes," Caillouet said.

West Nile has been on the decline in recent years.

The state reported 34 severe cases last year, compared to more than 200 cases in 2002.

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