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Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Mosquito traps are part of county's West Nile Virus surveillance program

If you see a device like the one pictured above in the woods, don’t disturb it. It’s a mosquito trap used by the Fairfax County Health Department to collect samples as part of its surveillance of West Nile Virus in the community. Traps have been set up in 68 locations, more or less evenly spaced throughout the county. They are mostly off the beaten path in wooded areas on public property.

Last year, five of the eight cases of West Nile Virus in humans in Fairfax County were in the Annandale/Mason area. 

If you look for a mosquito trap, you might not find it, as staff staff rotate the traps through the 68 locations in a consistent cycle to collect samples of mosquitoes from across the county, said Glen Barbour, spokesperson for the Fairfax County Health Department.  The traps are typically set up and collected within 24 to 48 hours.

Several different types of traps are being used. Some are about the size of an office trash can and are set on the ground; others are hung from a tree and are about five feet long. Both of these traps are placed under a tarp suspended from trees.

All it takes is one mosquito bite to become infected with West Nile Virus. About one in 150 people infected will develop serious symptoms, such as high fever, headache, neck stiffness, stupor, vision loss, numbness, and paralysis. Symptoms could last several weeks, and neurological effects could be permanent. Up to 20 percent of people infected will have milder symptoms, and about 80 percent won’t have any symptoms at all.

To reduce the risks of infection, the Health Department advises eliminating mosquito breeding sites by getting rid of standing water, wearing insect repellent, avoiding the outdoors at dawn and in the early evening, and fixing screens to keep mosquitoes out of your house.

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