Created: 07/07/2014 6:05 PM KAALtv.com
By: Justin Thompson-Gee
(ABC 6 NEWS) -- Mosquitoes are a staple and a pest during Minnesota summers, but in recent years the cause for concern has changed from itchy bites to disease and even death.
“The city of Albert Lea didn’t spray for the longest time and then when that West Nile virus first showed up they started spraying,” says parks and recreation director, Jay Hutchinson.
According to the Minnesota Department of Health the state saw 79 confirmed human cases of the virus last year with three deaths. This past week, mosquitoes tested positive for the virus in Scott County and Albert Lea has taken notice, “the city of Albert Lea has sprayed for the last two weeks and the mosquitoes right now seem to be kind of knocked down,” Hutchinson says.
A private company based out of Iowa monitors mosquito populations for Albert Lea and suggests when spraying should be done, “as soon as they see an outbreak they let us know and we can also tell because we start getting complaints and then we will spray,” says Hutchinson.
A very wet end of June and consistent warmth has kept mosquito numbers up so far this year and kept spraying companies busy, “when we had all of that rain we did get a big hatch so just with the heat and the amount of rain we had a lot of standing water so that’s why we had a major hatch,” Hutchinson says.
Overall officials say mosquito numbers have been comparable to previous years. Health officials are also concerned about Chikungunya, a virus carried by mosquitoes in the Caribbean that causes severe joint pain with confirmed cases already in Minnesota.
To repel the insect it is recommended to empty bird baths or other areas of standing water at least twice a week and keep the mosquito repellant handy as the land of 10,000 lakes turns into 10 million mosquitoes.