The rains and cooler temperatures Lubbock saw Friday morning provided some much needed relief for the Lubbock area. However, the conditions may also provide the prime opportunity for the West Nile Virus to spread into our area.
There have been no reports of the West Nile in Lubbock, but at least one person has recently recovered from the virus in Hale County. The Dallas area has seen an outbreak that has killed at least 10 people.
People contract the virus from mosquitoes, which thrive in moisture. Because of the lack of moisture in our area, they haven't been around much over the past two years. However, according to Texas Tech Environmental Professor Steve Presley, that could change if our area sees significant rainfall this weekend.
"It may be just enough to allow the mosquito population to boom, which will increase the amplification of the virus between birds and mosquitoes, which will make more mosquitoes that could potentially bite people," Presley said.
To try and keep the numbers down, Glenn Heinrich with Lubbock's Vector Control says the city regularly traps mosquitoes.
"We have 26 light traps in the county. We collect those samples weekly and then we taxonomy them and ID them," Heinrich said.
Heinrich says the mosquitoes are then sent off to Dr. Presley's lab to be tested.
"They screen every sample we send them for a positive reaction of West Nile," Heinrich said.
However, just because a mosquito tests positive for West Nile, that does not necessarily make it a great concern to our area. Dr. Presley says there are about 3500 different species of mosquitoes. Of those species, only about 21 reside in the Lubbock area. Of those 21 species in our area, only 3 have been show to be able to carry the West Nile Virus.
"Right now is the time, not to be worried, not to be alarmed, but a time to be more cautious," Presley said.
The city of Lubbock is taking precautions by fogging certain neighborhoods with complaints of mosquitoes. They are also treating standing water. The city says they are prepared to do more if necessary.
"When it becomes a full scale, wide spread epidemic, then we'll spray everything as fast and hard as we can," Heinrich said.
Meantime, Dr. Presley says it's important for residents to take proper precautions to avoid attracting mosquitoes.
"We could definitely have an outbreak, where there's a lot of West Nile being transmitted in the Lubbock area and the whole region of the Panhandle," Presley said.
Copyright 2012 KCBD. All rights reserved.