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Missouri West Nile Virus Threat Doesn’t End with Fall’s Arrival

Missouri DHSS updates its West Nile virus data through the end of October, even in years like this one when infections have been considered "light." (Unsplash)
Missouri DHSS updates its West Nile virus data through the end of October, even in years like this one when infections have been considered "light." (Unsplash)
September 13, 2019

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – Mosquitoes trapped in Jefferson County have tested positive for the West Nile virus, according to scientists with the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services.

Even though fall is less than two weeks away, Molly Baker – a senior epidemiology specialist with DHSS – says people need to keep using insect repellent and wearing clothes that cover their exposed skin when they're outdoors.

Baker says it isn't time to relax.

"The transmission season definitely isn't over,” says Baker, “because it's not unusual for us to have cases reported to us through September and into October."

She says as long as temperatures remain well above freezing, mosquitoes will continue to be a pest-control problem as well as a health threat.

Missouri has averaged 20 West Nile virus cases per year over the last five years. Though no one has died this year, the state has averaged two fatalities each summer and fall.

The continuing threat of contracting the West Nile virus means people must take the necessary precautions to protect themselves. Getting rid of standing water on your property is a good first step.

Baker says that doesn't mean historic flooding in northern Missouri has made the problem worse.

"Floodwater mosquitoes are definitely a nuisance,” says Baker, “and they can be very aggressive biters, but they don't generally pose an increased risk for West Nile virus transmission."

The virus originates in birds and more than two dozen dead bird reports have been received by the DHSS in recent weeks. A great horned owl in Cole County tested positive last month.

Health officials say the majority of West Nile cases historically occur in late summer and early fall.

Dale Forbis, Public News Service - MO