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Researchers find infected mosquitos in the Tucson area


Arizona Daily Wildcat

Photo Courtesy of the Center for Disease Control website UA scientists have discovered a new breed of mosquito that carries the disease encephalitis. Recent heavy rainfall have increased the amount of mosquitos in Tucson.

By Irene Hsiao
Arizona Daily Wildcat,
September 10, 1999

The increase of rainfall has brought more mosquitoes on the UA campus than usual, and scientists offered warnings about possible health dangers of being bitten by an unusual breed of the insect.

UA scientists have discovered a different species of mosquito that carries the encephalitis virus at Sweetwa-ter, a swamp in the Tucson area.

Henry Hagedorn, a professor of entomology, explained that the detected Western equine encephalitis is first carried by birds that are attracted to the swamp. Then, it is picked up by mosquitoes.

However, the mosquitoes seen around the University of Arizona, the Aedes aegypti, are a different species than the Sweetwater mosquitoes. The insect around campus could potentially cause dengue fever.

The encephalitis virus is carried by the Culex tarsalis mosquito and can attack the nervous system.

"It's rare that people get it, but there's been a major scare in New York City," he said. "The virus varies in toxicity for humans."

It could give victims flu fevers, convulsions and even death, Hagedorn said.

Craig Levy, program manager of Vector-Borne Disease Program for the Arizona Department of Health Services, recommended precautions to minimize the risk of getting mosquito bites.

"People have got to clean up their junk and in their clutter that's holding water," he said. "All it takes (is) a little container of water to breed a lot of mosquitoes."

Hagedor said that it is important to get rid of water in fish ponds, plant saucers and old tires around people's homes.

"It's really critical to get people to control mosquitoes in their backyards," he said.

As for the students who are getting bit in the residence halls, Hagedorn suggests they should report the problem.

"I think what needs to be done is to complain that there are problems," he said.

He added that the mosquito-gathering hotspots should be found and treated to prevent more from coming.

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