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Two Americas: virus-infected mosquitoes swamp areas around country

mosquito trap
Posted at 6:33 AM, Nov 12, 2021
and last updated 2021-11-16 12:01:12-05

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — They just might pick you up and fly you away. That is a long-running joke when talking about Texas mosquitoes.  This is a place where you can be outside most of the year without a sweater, but do not forget your repellant. 

“We use a lot of mosquito spray. The mosquitoes are still everywhere,” said Melanie Soto, Kingsville resident.

The flying blood suckers love the Lone Star State. 

“Mosquito season is year-round around here,” Jason Torres said with a smile, who is a City of Kingsville health inspector. 

Torres’ team has been working unusually hard this year. Since August, they discovered multiple West Nile virus infected mosquito pools. This is a first for Kleberg County. 

“They were pretty close together,” said Torres. “They were all kind of concentrated in one area."

Torres typically collects mosquito samples once a month for testing, and every week when there is a West Nile positive pool. 

In the city nearby, Corpus Christi, the vector team is also busy testing. 

“We've had a lot of positive test results since July,” said Vanessa Scarbrough, field supervisor of vector services for the city of Corpus Christi.

Scarbrough’s team discovered 12 West Nile positive pools from July to September.

“Usually, it hasn't been this high," Scarbrough said. "This has been an abnormally high amount of positive cases for us."

According to the Center for Disease Control, so far this year, the state of Texas reported 44 West Nile virus cases and four deaths. Arizona is at the top with 480 cases and 39 deaths. Colorado has recorded 162 cases and a death count of eight. 

“If it goes untreated, it can cause serious health issues in the victims who do get infected with it,” Scarbrough warns. 

The Moore Plaza in Corpus Christi is where the family of Jack Underwood believe he was infected with West Nile virus while working in a security job. He died 15 years ago this week. 

“To anybody else, oh, it's just a mosquito bite. To me, that was my dad's death sentence right there,” said Lacey Underwood. 

The virus left Underwood's 52-year-old father mentally and physically stuck. His death came two years after diagnosis. 

“It didn't happen right away,” she remembers. “He suffered. A 50-something-year-old man, it shouldn't be a relief to pass away."

The CDC reports, about one in 150 infections turn serious and sometimes deadly. 

“Well, that's enough for me because it was enough for me,” Underwood says.

Officials warn people to take care when heading outdoors in the evenings and at dawn. They say those are the times of day when mosquitoes are most active. Other tips include wearing long sleeves and using insect repellent that contains deet. Also, get rid of standing water.

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