Originally published on Tue September 23, 2014 6:20 am
California's historic drought is partly to blame for the recent rise in West Nile virus infections, public health officials say. There have been 311 cases reported so far, double the number of the same time last year, and the most of any state in the country.
West Nile virus is spread by mosquitoes. They contract the virus when they feed on infected birds, then spread it to the birds they bite next. A shortage of water can accelerate this cycle.
Chris Tschinkel is stuffing mosquitoes into small plastic test tubes.
He’s the field operations manager for the North Fork Mosquito Abatement District. It’s a very small organization that tries to keep the local mosquito population under control. Their territory runs from Hotchkiss to Paonia and further up the valley.
2012 was a bad year for West Nile Virus in Western Colorado. Mesa, Montrose and Delta Counties accounted for nearly half the confirmed cases in the state. In Delta County, the 22 cases included the death of an 82-year-old man from Orchard City.
Last week, the Delta County Health department reported three additional cases of West Nile Virus among residents. That brings the total number of confirmed and suspect human cases of the virus in the county to 20–most of which have resulted in uncomplicated fever. Most of the reported cases have been in the Delta and North Fork areas, and on Saturday, the town of Hotchkiss sprayed to kill adult mosquitoes. For KVNF and the iSeeChange project, Julia Kumari Drapkin takes a closer look at why mosquitoes and West Nile Virus are thriving in a DROUGHT year and whether community efforts to spray late in the season will pay off.
Produced by Julia Kumari Drapkin, the iSeeChange project at KVNF is part of Localore, a nationwide production of AIR designed to accelerate transformation and extend public service media to all Americans. KVNF was selected as one of only 10 Localore stations across the country—learn more at airmediaworks.org. Localore is funded by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, the Wyncote Foundation, the John T. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, and the National Endowment for the Arts. Interactive storytelling partner Zeega co-produced TheAlmanac.org with iSeeChange.