Texas' historic drought is, at least, good for one thing: fewer mosquitoes. But according to researchers at UNT Health Science Center in Fort Worth, the mosquitoes that survive could be bigger, meaner and more persistent.
Mosquitoes grow in stagnant water. If there are fewer mosquitoes, there are more nutrients to go around, says Dr. Joon Lee, a medical entomologist who investigates the possibility of West Nile risk in Fort Worth as part of a partnership with the city. That may result in larger mosquitoes -- not moth-sized, but still. "A little bigger is a lot bigger in terms of mosquitoes," Lee tells Unfair Park.
Normal mosquitoes can live up to about 20 days. These stronger mosquitoes could live up to a month. They could also cover more territory. If you find yourself in a battle against them, swatting away, know that they'll be able to last longer.
More important, the added strength, longer life expectancy and greater range mean mosquitoes have more time to pass on the West Nile virus, Lee says.
The West Nile virus first reared its head in Texas in 2002, and a state of emergency was declared two summers ago. the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that nearly half of all cases in Texas occurred in the four counties around DFW. Trucks, filled with a chemical cocktail, roamed Dallas. Planes, under the cover of night, took off and sprayed the city, probably with little or no effect. Around 400 people were infected, and 20 people died. The CDC estimated the economic cost at about $50 million, based on providing healthcare, mosquito-control resources and spraying.
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The number of people infected (11) and the number of people dead (two, both over the age of 65) dropped dramatically in 2013. This year, according to Dallas County Health and Human Services, there have been three mosquito pools that have tested positive for West Nile virus. No word on whether the mosquitoes lurking there were supersized, but it's good to take caution either way. Send your story tips to the author, Sky Chadde.