Kent Co. Health Department trapping, testing mosquitoes for West Nile

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GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. - West Nile Virus is inevitable, according to  local health departments on the hunt for the disease before it spreads.

The Kent County Health Department launched its annual surveillance program this week, giving an inside look at how they use the guts of mosquitoes during clinical tests. As of now, they have not found the presence of West Nile Virus just yet but they fully expect to any day now.

"This to me is one of the coolest projects we do all year," said Steve Kelso, Kent County's Health Department Marketing and Communications Manager. "Few, if any, tears are shed for fallen mosquitoes as KCHD lures, traps, kills, pulverizes and tests the pesky parasites."

More than ten mosquito traps are set around Kent County by the Mosquito Surveillance Team. Each trap uses a highly potent solution called, 'Stick Water,' luring mosquitoes into a bin where they get vacuumed and collected into a net.

"Then they are retrieved two days later," Kelso said. "None escape, none survive. We bring them back here to the KCHD. We pulverize them and turn them into a mosquito slurry and use that to test for the presence of West Nile Virus."

The mosquitoes are studied, separated by sex, then put into a test tube where they are crushed into a paste.

"Looking for the female, Culix mosquito, that we know is the one that bites humans and the one that’s most likely to carry the West Nile Virus," said Kelso..

Lastly, test strips check the paste for the presence of West Nile Virus, something health officials are waiting for.

"We have not found West Nile Virus this year," Kelso said. "We fully anticipate that we're going to find West Nile Virus in mosquitoes, we think it's going to be any day now."

Kelso says it's time for everyone to start thinking about your behaviors when you're outside; advising everyone to wear long sleeve clothing, use bug repellent with DEET, check screens in home windows, and discard and standing water around a home.

"Entire colonies of mosquitoes can breed in as much water that is held inside a bottle cap," Kelso said.

92 people have died from West Nile Virus since the first case was diagnosed in Michigan since 2001, with more than 2100 cases state-wide.

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