The Latest

  • August 13, 2018

    Chicago News Reports on High Levels of West Nile virus

    Mark Clifton of the North Shore Mosquito Abatement District was interviewed recently by ABC 7 in Chicago regarding the high levels of West Nile virus being found in its traps. Justin Harbison of Loyola University and Dr. Rachel Rubin of the Cook County Department of Health are also featured in news clip (along with mosquitoes caught in Milwaukee in conjunction with Haley Johnson's larvicide effectiveness study), which can be found here. The accompanying news article is copied below.

    Elevated levels of West Nile Virus found in local mosquitoes

    By Sarah Schulte

    Friday, August 10, 2018

    The North Shore Mosquito Abatement District has reported high levels of West Nile Virus in its mosquito traps.

    These elevated levels means human infection is likely, District officials said.

    "It's quite high, it's second to 2012 outbreak where dozens of people got sick by West Nile," said North Shore Mosquito Abatement District Executive Director Mark Clifton.

    Approximately 300 cases of West Nile Virus were reported in Illinois in 2012. 174 of those cases were in Cook County.

    While there have not been any confirmed cases of West Nile in Cook County this year, the Cook County Department of Public Health is ready in case they appear.

    "Certainly we're watching the trends very carefully as we work closely with abatement districts," said Dr. Rachel Rubin of the Department of Health.

    Both abatement districts and doctors said prevention is key. Steps like using an EPA-approved bug spray, wearing loose clothing, draining water on your property and staying inside at dawn and dusk can help you avoid the disease.

    "The mosquitoes that can transmit West Nile will reproduce in small containers, children's toys, garden pots anything that can hold water," Clifton said.

    People who are bitten by infected mosquitos may develop symptoms within three to 21 days, but most people exposed to the virus don't get sick, Rubin said.

    Mild cases of West Nile may cause fever and headache, while severe cases can affect the brain and spinal cord and lead to death.

    "Those are the symptoms you think about, things like headache, malaise, fatigue, confusion, body aches," Rubin said.


  • August 2, 2018

    Tickborne Disases Likely to Increase According to NIH Officials

    July 25, 2018

    The incidence of tickborne infections in the United States has risen significantly within the past decade. It is imperative, therefore, that public health officials and scientists build a robust understanding of pathogenesis, design improved diagnostics, and develop preventive vaccines, according to a new commentary in the New England Journal of Medicine from leading scientists at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), part of the National Institutes of Health.

    Bacteria cause most tickborne diseases in the United States, with Lyme disease representing the majority (82 percent) of reported cases. The spirochete Borrelia burgdorferi is the primary cause of Lyme disease in North America; it is carried by hard-bodied ticks that then feed on smaller mammals, such as white-footed mice, and larger animals, such as white-tailed deer. Although there are likely many factors contributing to increased Lyme disease incidence in the U.S., greater tick densities and their expanding geographical range have played a key role, the authors write. For example, the Ixodes scapularis tick, which is the primary source of Lyme disease in the northeastern U.S., had been detected in nearly 50 percent more counties by 2015 than was previously reported in 1996. Although most cases of Lyme disease are successfully treated with antibiotics, 10 to 20 percent of patients report lingering symptoms after effective antimicrobial therapy. Scientists need to better understand this lingering morbidity, note the authors.

    Tickborne virus infections are also increasing and could cause serious illness and death. For example, Powassan virus (POWV), recognized in 1958, causes a febrile illness that can be followed by progressive and severe neurologic conditions, resulting in death in 10 to 15 percent of cases and long-term symptoms in as many as 70 percent of survivors. Only 20 U.S. cases of POWV infection were reported before 2006; 99 cases were reported between 2006 and 2016.  

    The public health burden of tickborne disease is considerably underreported, according to the authors. For example, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports approximately 30,000 cases of Lyme disease annually in the U.S. but estimates that the true incidence is 10 times that number. According to the authors, this is due in part to the limitations of current tickborne disease surveillance, as well as current diagnostics, which may be imprecise in some cases and are unable to recognize new tickborne pathogens as they emerge. These limitations have led researchers to explore new, innovative diagnostics with different platforms that may provide clinical benefit in the future.

    It is also critical that scientists develop vaccines to prevent disease, the authors write. A vaccine to protect against Lyme disease was previously developed, but was pulled from the market and is no longer available. Future protective measures could include vaccines specifically designed to create an immune response to a pathogen, or to target pathogens inside the ticks that carry them.

    By focusing research on the epidemiology of tickborne diseases, improving diagnostics, finding new treatments and developing preventive vaccines, public health officials and researchers may be able to stem the growing threat these diseases pose. In the meantime, the authors suggest, healthcare providers should advise their patients to use basic prevention techniques: wear insect repellant, wear long pants when walking in the woods or working outdoors, and check for ticks.


    CI Paules, HD Marston, ME Bloom and AS Fauci. Tickborne Diseases — Confronting a Growing Threat. New England Journal of MedicineDOI: 10.1056/NEJMp1807870(link is external) (2018).

    See the press release online here.


  • July 26, 2018

    ABC Reports on West Nile Virus Activity in the Chicago Area

    By Mark Rivera

    Wednesday, July 25, 2018

    The Chicago area has seen an uptick in the number of mosquitoes infected with the West Nile virus in the last week, which is much earlier in the summer compared to previous years.

    "We're not only seeing a lot of Culex mosquitoes, which are the carriers of West Nile virus, but we're seeing lots of West Nile virus in them," he said.

    Earlier this month, an Aurora woman and a Wheaton woman contracted West Nile virus.

    Officials with mosquito abatement districts and health departments are now on alert, warning residents and eliminating standing water. They are urging people to wear repellant and avoid getting bit by mosquitoes.

    "Our concern, of course, is trying to prevent more cases as we move through the summer," said Kevin Dixon, the DuPage County Health Department's director of environmental health services.

    Spikes in mosquitoes with the West Nile virus have been reported in DuPage and Will counties, as well as by the North Shore Mosquito Abatement District (NSMAD).

    "Our levels of West Nile are above average," said NSMAD Executive Director Mark Clifton. "We're approaching those thresholds where we would see human infections."

    Clifton said he doesn't normally see these levels of West Nile-infected mosquitoes until mid- to late August. West Nile virus thrives in dry, hot weather, he said.

    "It's probably not going to get better soon. The risk is probably going to increase most likely," he said.

    The DuPage County Fair is working to keep visitors safe.

    The fair has reworked the drainage system, contracted an abatement company and have turned a former refuse area into a stable natural landscape, said fair manager Jim McGuire.

    "Keeping it fresh, keeping it nice," McGuire said.

    Mosquito experts say there's no way to tell if we're at a peak for West Nile yet, because it depends on the weather. Cold and damp weather will likely reduce those chances to get infected. Chances of getting infected go up during hot weather and then decline typically after the first frost of the year.

    See the original article here.


  • July 17, 2018

    Illinois Mosquito Abatement Districts Featured in Recent Chicago Tribune Article

    Vikki Ortiz

    Chicago Tribune


    You’re not imagining it: There are significantly more mosquitoes than usual for this time of year in the Chicago area, thanks to a combination of heavy rain followed by hot, dry weather and lack of opportunities to spray against the blood-sucking bugs.

    “I haven’t seen traps that look like this in years,” said David Zazra, spokesman for the North Shore Mosquito Abatement District, which this week recorded five times the average number of mosquitoes.

    Employees in the lab were running a day behind in their weekly counts because there were so many mosquitoes in traps to tally.

    “They say they’re going blind and need some relief from counting mosquitoes,” Zazra said.

    ypically, the district sees fewer than 50 mosquitoes each night in each of its nine traps spread throughout the district. This week, there was an average of 250 mosquitoes per trap night, Zazra said.

    And that’s six times more than last week. As of Wednesday, district staff counted 9,008 nuisance mosquitoes — the type that don’t carry the West Nile virus — in its traps. The total shows a surge of insects from the previous week, when there were 1,614.

    At the Northwest Mosquito Abatement District, which covers northwest suburban Cook County, staff members usually see an average of 26 nuisance mosquitoes in traps spread across its area this time of year. This year, the traps are averaging 43 mosquitoes each, with even higher counts of 55 to 100 near forest preserves, according to Patrick Irwin, medical entomologist for the Northwest Mosquito Abatement District.

    The last time the district recorded counts this high was in 2013, Irwin said.

    Mosquito experts point to a domino effect that led to the high numbers.

    May was the wettest May in Chicago history, according to weather officials, with total rainfall of 8.21 inches.

    The wet conditions offered mosquitoes ample opportunity to breed in stagnant pools of water. Then continual rainfall in June kept mosquito control agencies from implementing larva control measures. The hot, dry weather that followed then prevented mature larvae from getting washed into larger bodies of water away from the public, the experts said.

    Finally, mosquito abatement districts spray the air as a last line of defense against adult mosquitoes. But with the Fourth of July landing midweek, and other nonrainy nights falling on weekends when many people were enjoying the outdoors, spray crews had to postpone treatment, so sprays would not interfere with people attending barbecues and eating outdoors, they said.

    “If people are walking down the street, drivers are instructed to shut off,” said Zazra. “In downtown Evanston, they’re sitting at cafes until 11:30 at night. People probably don’t want spray in their creme brulee.”

    To keep mosquitoes away, experts recommend wearing long sleeves and pants and following manufacturers’ guidelines on store-bought repellent, especially at night when the insects are most active. Eliminate all pools of standing water around your home. Change birdbath water frequently, and check for water trapped in gutters, said Brian Duffy, assistant manager and director of field operations at Des Plaines Valley Mosquito Abatement District.

    Meanwhile, officials at the abatement districts say they will be amping up their spray efforts at night and continuing to eliminate breeding in areas identified on regularly updated maps of their areas. But it’s a challenging year, they said.

    “Once they’re out flying around, they can hide just about anywhere,” Irwin said.

    See the article here.


  • July 16, 2018

    Star Tribune Highlights Mosquito Control Efforts in Minnesota

    July 14, 2018 - 4:26 PM

    Monday is game day for mosquito fighters.

    Each Monday morning, the Metropolitan Mosquito Control District’s Kirk Johnson and his crew set out traps baited with dishes of stinky water, traps that are as delicious to mosquitoes as a plate of spaghetti carbonara is to a pasta lover.

    Each Monday at sunset, Johnson and the rest of the Monday Night Network spring into action again. An early-to-bed/early-to-rise guy, Johnson sets his alarm and wakes to join the 86 others who venture into their backyards or neighboring parks — without wearing Off! — to make themselves into what Johnson calls “attractants” but most of us would call “mosquito bait.”

    At a precise time (which varies depending on when the sun goes down), they stand still for a solid minute — luring nearby mosquitoes and essentially shouting to them, “The blood bar is open. Come at me!”

    After 60 seconds, the volunteers spend two minutes waving nets to catch the bloodsuckers they have attracted so those samples can be used to determine where mosquitoes are hitting hardest and, thus, where the Mosquito Control crew needs to send in its troops.

    “We’ve done work to determine what the level of tolerance is for people living in the metro area,” Johnson said. “That comes in at two mosquitoes in two minutes. If we have a level where we capture more than two in two minutes, that tends to equate to a point where people say they are bothered by mosquitoes.”

    A net with two dozen skeeters qualifies as “a pretty intense mosquito population,” he said, but numbers soared as high as 100 this month.

    So, if a Monday Night Networker captures two dozen pests, do they feel lucky? No, said Johnson: “They feel like they want to get back in the house.”

    Johnson, who has degrees in biology and environmental studies, is a vector ecologist for the Mosquito Control District (“vector” refers to pathogens that are carried about by other creatures). But the ecologist, who was drawn to mosquitoes because of his interest in their hang — wetlands — has come to know a heck of a lot about the pernicious creatures.

    After 21 years with the district, he can tell you there are 52 kinds of them in Minnesota, with life spans from a couple of weeks to a few months.

    Or that, despite popular wisdom, some species attack during the day.

    Or that the reason most mosquitoes strike during cooler hours is because that’s when they require less energy to fly and their victims are less active.

    “Kirk is kind of our eyes for the metro,” said Dave Neitzel, supervisor of mosquito and tick-borne diseases for the Minnesota Department of Health (and the creator of the Mosquito Control District’s surveillance and control program). “We know what kind of numbers to expect elsewhere in the state once we know what’s going on in the metro.”

    If there’s a mosquito breeding site that needs to be taken care of or another buggy mystery to solve, Neitzel said, he’s glad to know that Johnson and crew are on the case.

    Read the full article here


  • July 13, 2018

    TickApp Featured by MetroFocus in New York

    Dr. Maria Diuk-Wasser of Columbia University recently spoke with Jack Ford of MetroFocus in New York about the TickApp, a new smartphone app that allows users to provide data on tick bites and learn about tick bite prevention. Watch the interview and a short video they created that gives a preview and tutorial about the TickApp here.


  • July 13, 2018

    Dead bird found in Dane County tests positive for West Nile virus.

    MADISON, Wis. - Health officials say a dead bird found in Dane County has tested positive for West Nile virus.

    Officials from Public Health Madison & Dane County say this is the first bird that tested positive for the virus in Dane County this year since monitoring for the mosquito-transmitted virus began May 1.

    West Nile virus is spread through the bite of an infected mosquito.  Mosquitoes get the virus by feeding on infected birds.

    “Finding this bird reminds us that West Nile Virus is still with us and residents need to continue their efforts to prevent mosquito bites,” says John Hausbeck, PHMDC environmental health supervisor.

    The Wisconsin Division of Public Health will continue surveillance for West Nile virus through the summer. 

    See article here.


  • July 13, 2018

    State Has First Fatality From Rare Disease Spread By Common Tick

    Tuesday, July 10, 2018, 5:15pm

    By Shamane Mills

    A Wisconsin woman has died from a disease rarely seen in Wisconsin and carried by a common pest: the American dog tick, also known as a wood tick.

    The woman, who was in her late 50s, died last month from Rocky Mountain spotted fever after being bitten while camping, La Crosse County public health nurse Jo Foellmi said. It’s the state’s first death from Rocky Mountain spotted fever.

    "It is very rare to have this in Wisconsin. Minnesota has had one child fatality in the last five years. But normally you see this in the south or out west," Foellmi said.

    The disease has flu like symptoms: body aches, fever, headache and can usually be treated with antibiotics. The Wisconsin woman who died from the disease had underlying chronic health conditions.

    Wood ticks prefer cooler weather and are usually active in spring, early summer and late fall.

    "The good thing about dog ticks is they’re big enough that we typically pull them off. You see them, you get them off and need not worry," said Lyric Bartholomay, associate professor in the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Veterinary Medicine. She also co-directs the Midwest Center of Excellence for Vector-Borne Disease.

    "And because (Rocky Mountain spotted fever) is so rare in Wisconsin it's unlikely you would encounter one of those ticks that is infected and that it would stay on the skin long enough to transmit the pathogen," Bartholomay said.

    A tick surveillance team checked the area where the woman was camping. The team did not find any ticks carrying the disease, but they may go out again in cooler weather when the tick population is more prevalent.  

    "We shouldn’t be overly concerned about (this tick borne disease). We definitely should be aware of it ... make certain to check for ticks especially if you’re in woods. Wear repellant and that you wear the proper clothing: long sleeves, and pants tucked in boots so ticks are less likely to get in," said Foellmi.

    Disease spread by mosquitoes and ticks has been on the rise across the United States. And last year, Wisconsin saw a record 4,299 cases of Lyme disease, which is spread by the black-legged, or deer, tick.

    UW-Madison researchers are hoping a new smartphone app will help them gain a better understanding of where and when people come across ticks.

    Read more and listen to the radio spot here


Next Page