In his roughly 10 years monitoring mosquitoes in Bismarck, Anton Sattler hasn’t seen conditions quite like this year.
“A lot of the bodies of water or the areas that we treat are simply dry,” Sattler said.
Less water means fewer mosquitoes caught in the 10 traps scattered throughout Bismarck. By this time of year, Sattler says on average, there’s about 2,660 collected.
“To put that in perspective, what we caught for the same time frame this year with the same traps is only 271,” Sattler said.
Sattler oversees the traps that provide weekly data on the sex and species of mosquitoes buzzing around Bismarck. The biggest concern is the culex tarsalis, which can transmit West Nile Virus, and is less vulnerable to drought.
“Usually this population peaks in late July and August. We haven’t seen it as of yet,” Sattler said.
The state health department’s West Nile virus surveillance coordinator, Amanda Bakken, agrees.
“A lot of the floodwater type mosquitoes aren’t the main vectors of West Nile vectors, so it’s difficult to say if drought conditions would be impacting West Nile in the state,” Bakken said.
Amanda Bakken says although this year is dry and there are fewer mosquitoes, that might not have an impact on the spread of West Nile.
Data from local public health departments is crucial for the state to assess the risk of the virus in North Dakota.
“There’s several vector control districts that do their own surveillance, testing, monitoring and they share their results with us,” Bakken said.
Bakken says the state’s seen a downward trend of the virus the past few years, but since cases tend to peak at the end of July and into August, it might be too early to tell for this year.
Bakken says about 80 percent of people who contract West Nile virus don’t present with symptoms, and just 1 in 150 may become seriously ill.
It hasn’t been detected in a human in Burleigh County this year, but the North Dakota Health Department confirmed one case in Sargent county, where the person was not hospitalized.
To avoid mosquito bites, both Sattler and Bakken recommend covering up when going outside, wearing bug spray and draining any pools of stagnant water on your property, which can be a breeding site for the insect.