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Warm, wet weather brings renewed risk of Lacrosse virus in mosquitoes

(WOWT)
Published: Jul. 12, 2017 at 6:22 PM EDT
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Javier Urcuyo, a student, said, "It's warm here, it rains; those are two of the biggest predictors of lacrosse virus."

That's why students at the University of Tennessee Institute of Agriculture are using their smarts to research mosquitoes in East Tennessee. The students are taking samples of the insects from about 70 spots across the region.

Urcuyo said, "So it's a pretty big season where mosquitoes are active and flying around."

About one percent of the pesky insects carry Lacrosse Virus.

Becky Trout Fryxell, a professor of Entomology and Plant Pathology at the UT Institute of Agriculture, said, "They all are black and white, so that's a nice way to be able to tell. Just avoid getting bit by the black and white mosquitoes in your backyard, and they're everywhere."

The illness, which can only be transmitted through a mosquito bite, mostly affects kids under 15-years-old.

Symptoms start with a headache and fever, but in a couple weeks, kids will become lethargic and should see a doctor.

Fryxell said, "It really becomes like a summer virus, something we think of with West Nile virus."

Lacrosse first made an appearance in East Tennessee with a 2001 outbreak. So far, there have not been any cases this year, but experts say it's only a matter of time.

They're reminding you to use DEET, especially from 5 to 10 p.m. when mosquitoes are most hungry.

Fryxell said, "And so it's completely dependent upon the mosquito. If we can get rid of the mosquito, we can get rid of the virus."

So these students are working to better predict the spread of Lacrosse. They said weather seems to be the biggest predictor.

Experts said mosquitoes are worse in July, but they start coming out in March and stay until September. Every species of mosquito is also growing in numbers in East Tennessee.

Experts also said anyone giving off more carbon dioxide is generally more appealing to mosquitoes. That means someone who's warm, breathing heavily, or sweating may be more attractive to the insects.