HEALTH DEPT.: West Nile mosquito is here

COLUMBIA CITY ­ — As health officials around the state and other parts of the Midwest caution residents to be wary of mosquito-borne diseases such as the West Nile Virus, it was announced Monday afternoon such a threat is no longer just a possibility.“I was contacted today (Monday) by the state that Whitley County has the West Nile mosquito,” said Scott Wagner of the Whitley County Health Department.“They just called me today. They found pools of these mosquitoes growing at the (Columbia City) Wastewater Treatment Plant.”Wagner, the health department’s environmental health specialist, said several species of mosquitoes can carry the virus and added that state health officials who seek them out have a specific reason for starting the search at wastewater treatment plants.“They (the mosquitoes) typically thrive in nitrogen-rich environments,” said Wagner.“And, that would be sewage treatment plants or failed septic tanks, anywhere where there’s sewage.”Wagner said dusk and dawn are the times of day when mosquitoes are most prevalent and warned residents to spray themselves with repellent or wear clothing that covers normally-exposed areas.Wagner also said many people have built up an immunity to the virus but that those who are very old or very young are more susceptible.The Associated Press reported last week that the number of West Nile Virus-carrying mosquitoes had been on the rise in recent months due to hotter and dryer-than-normal conditions during the drought.