CDC: West Nile Deaths Highest Since 2003

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Knoxville (WVLT) - Startling figures out from the centers for disease control, the number of deaths last year from West Nile Virus is the highest since 2003.

As we've reported, despite the drought, the number of mosquitoes is on the increase here in East Tennessee. So, the risk of the disease climbs as well.

Recent rain will only create more breeding ground for mosquitoes, so we asked our Allison Hunt to find out what you can do to keep your backyard mosquito free.

The CDC report says at least 177 people died, and more than 4,200 others stricken with West Nile nationwide.

Luckily, none in East Tennessee, but the chance is always there, so health officials say you need to take precautions.

We've been waiting for the rain and so have mosquitoes.

"If the water stays there, it give a place for mosquitoes to breed and within 7 days we're going to start having little mosquitoes everywhere again,” says Ronnie Nease from the Knox County Health Department.

"Oh it gets bad when there's mosquitoes,” Barbara Webb knows exactly what it's like when mosquitoes make their way into Knoxville. "For the past 2 summers it has been so bad that you couldn't sit out on the decks."

She'll empty her flower pots and bird baths to keep them away. "You have to dump them out and especially underneath your tomato plants where the water gathers when you water."

And that's exactly what the health department recommends.

"They need to get out and check their wheelbarrows, the children's toys, in the sandboxes. Pour all the water out of those, check the flower pots, the drop pans under there to get those cleaned out,” Nease.

Two weeks of standing water is breeding ground for mosquitoes, and disease.

"Not only are mosquitoes a pest in Knoxville, the public health standpoint is concerned because of West Nile Virus that can be transmitted through mosquitoes,” Nease explains.

The Health Department says there were no cases of West Nile in Knox County last year, but the possibility is always there.

"We need to take every precaution that we can to prevent it and to reduce the risk for everyone that's out there,” Nease says.

And that's why Wilma Ray keeps her flower pots dry. "Yea it's scary. That's one reason why I keep my eye on everything in my yard."

So even if the rain moves in, she hopes the mosquitoes will stay out. "If you empty them and keep them dry they don't accumulate anywhere."

For more information on how you can prevent mosquitoes from invading your yard, follow the link below.