Drought means more West Nile mosquitos

?Though the Mosquito Abatement District has yet to find a significant number of West Nile virus-carrying mosquitoes in Oak Park traps

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Though the Mosquito Abatement District has yet to find a significant number of West Nile virus-carrying mosquitoes in Oak Park traps, local and county health officials are warning that increases in infected insects found elsewhere in Illinois should spur residents to take necessary precautions.

The state reported the first human cases of the virus this week.

Mike Charley, environmental services supervisor for the Oak Park Health Department, said two weeks ago that the hot, dry weather, combined with a spike in infected mosquitoes discovered in northeast Illinois, has raised concerns.

"There's a greater chance that an increase [in virus-carrying mosquitos] could happen very quickly. Prevention is important," he said.

Though most people associate mosquitos with wet weather conditions, the Culex mosquito, which can carry the virus, actually thrives during dryer summers.

The Mosquito Abatement District will spray catch basins on private property if requested, and also offers information on getting "gambusia" fish?#34;which like to eat mosquito larvae?#34;for fish ponds. The Abatement District can be reached at 447-1765.

Precautionary measures, recommended in a village press statement, include:

?Eliminating areas likely to create pools of stagnant water, where mosquitoes are likely to lay eggs. Some likely candidates include weeds, tall grass and discarded tires, as well as ground depressions. Areas as small as a "discarded bottle cap" can even pose a threat.

?Clean and empty birdbaths, pools and "ceramic garden pots," and clean out gutters.

?Check air conditioners, dryer hoses, window screens and other "penetration points" to make sure mosquitoes can't get in.

?Try not go outside at dusk or dawn, especially without shoes, socks, long pants and a long-sleeved shirt.

?Use repellents. Especially recommended are those that contain DEET.

?#34;Katharine Grayson

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