Will a rainy June mean more West Nile virus?

Jul 12, 2013

The conventional wisdom is that it's going to be a bad year for mosquitos, because of the very rainy June. But, whether that means more incidence of mosquito born viruses, is debatable.

Last year, there were nine confirmed cases of West Nile virus in Onondaga County, including one fatality. And the virus, that has become part of central New York's ecology, has already turned up in mosquito traps in the town of Manlius this year. So will an expected increase in the bugs mean more danger of West Nile in humans this summer? Onondaga County Health Commissioner Cynthia Morrow says you can't just look at that one factor, pointing to evidence from the last two years.

"[Last year] we had a dry season with few mosquitos, but a large disease burden. The year before, we had a large mosquito burden, but not a large disease burden," said Morrow. "And I think that's hard for people to understand, that there are so many variables that go into what the actual risk of contracting West Nile virus is in our community."

The bottom line, says Morrow, is that residents need to protect themselves against the bite, by using insect repellant and avoiding going outside when mosquitos are most active. She says West Nile is more prevalent in urban areas, which is why the county has been treating areas of standing water with larvicide since May. The other, more serious mosquito borne illness, Eastern Equine Encephalitis generally doesn't turn up in central New York until later in the season.