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The fever is spreading quickly, and those who work or play outdoors are susceptible. As West Nile Fever spreads across 16 states, 164 cases have been identified this season so far, up 46.4% from last year's tally of 112 cases in just four states, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, Ga. Numbers of cases, which have tripled since last week, comprise 72 from Colorado, 19 from Texas, 15 from Louisiana, and a few each in Alabama, Florida, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Minnesota, Mississippi, Nebraska, New Mexico, North Dakota, Ohio, South Carolina, and South Dakota, said CDC Director Julie Gerberding. Two people have died in Texas, one in Colorado, and one in Alabama, she said. This year's increase in case numbers is quite noticeable. For example, last year, Colorado had not reported cases of the fever this time last year, but this year, it's the leading state. And last week, no mosquito samples tested in New Jersey showed positive results, while this week, all of them did. Last year, roughly two-thirds of new cases of the virus occurred within six weeks after August 7, said Gerberding. A total of 4156 cases of human infection, 284 of them fatal, were reported in the season that lasted through October, The virus is attributed to mosquito bites, but could be transferred by blood transfusions or organ donations. What is important, said Gerberding, is that people "fight the bite". The FDA estimates that 1 in 150 people that are infected develop the severe symptoms of the disease that include fever and encephalitis, or swelling of the brain. Gerberding urged people to eradicate pools of standing water that serve as mosquito breeding grounds in their yards, to wear long sleeves, and to use DEET-containing insecticide before going outdoors. Eradication the Little Bugars As the nature of the landscaping industry dictates extensive outdoors labor, workers are susceptible to mosquito bites and should take preventative measures. As landscapers are often responsible for both creating and eradicating pools of water, they are partially in control of what types of mosquito breeding grounds exist in a project. Great care and consideration should be taken to keep the probability of the spread of the virus to a minimum. Several types of mosquito controls exist on the market, including chemicals and contraptions that emit carbon dioxide and human-like substances to attract and then kill mosquitos. A popular response to mosquito population growth is the use of B.t.i.s,, (Bacillius thuringiensis, subspecies israelensis), a bacteria that is deadly to mosquito larvae, but harmless to most other species. B.t.i. can be bought in several forms, including cakes and bits, and are EPA registered in all 50 states. By placing the B.t.i. compounds in ponds, birdbaths, and other non-potable sources, mosquitos are killed in their larval stage before they even grow wings. Aeration can also help prevent mosquitos by keeping the water turbulent. Mosquitos lay eggs in still water, such as that gathered in old tires or puddles. However, aeration keeps the water moving, and therefore, undesirable to mosquitos. For more information on aeration, check out these articles on LandscapeOnline.com; Great Expectations; Crystal Clear; Beauty and Health, Above and Below. Cities and counties are also sponsoring large-scale insecticide sprayings that can cost around $25,000 each, according to palmbeachpost.com. In Palm Beach, Florida, recent rains have increased mosquito counts six times. Pesticides applicators are working overtime, spraying from both trucks and planes to combat the rise in the mosquito population, and the risk of West Nile Virus . Why is this Virus Bothering Us? The quickly-spreading West Nile Virus may have people wondering why it was never an issue before. One wide-spread theory is that global warmth may instigate the spread of the disease. According to the Environmental Media Services, "Mosquito-borne diseases such as encephalitis and malaria, and rodent-borne diseases such as hantavirus, are extremely weather-sensitive. Small changes in temperature and rainfall will have significant impacts on transmission of these diseases." Or, as the CDC puts it, "warmer and wetter weather will likely increase the breeding of rodents and insects that spread disease." What does this mean? As the climate heats up, it is more able to support the vectors (disease-carrying animals or insects) that spread disease. Not to mention, diseases that lived in areas that already had warm temperatures are able to spread to areas that are warming up. As temperature and humidity changes throughout the United States, certain vector-borne diseases are able to spread to places that formerly could not support them. Therefore, new diseases are not only something to prevent on a personal level, but are possibly preventable on a global scale by the actions we take to maintain the environment. For more information on mosquitos and mosquito control, check out these stories on LandscapeOnline.com: Outdoor Comfort; Water Dimensions; Broad Spectrum. Sources:cnn.com; ems.org; wired.com; yourpondstore.com

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June 18, 2019, 7:10 am PDT

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