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DuPage Forest Preserve District monitoring for West Nile virus underway

DuPage Forest Preserve District employees monitor, and may treat, more than 100 sites for the presence of culex mosquitoes. |  Provided
DuPage Forest Preserve District employees monitor, and may treat, more than 100 sites for the presence of culex mosquitoes. | Provided

The Forest Preserve District of DuPage County is in its 12th season of monitoring and managing populations of culex mosquitoes, which can carry West Nile virus.

“Our program is designed to support public health, and we have coordinated with the Illinois Department of Public Health and the DuPage County Health Department for many years to share data and refine our efforts,” says Tom Velat, the district’s insect ecologist and the program’s coordinator.

Culex mosquitoes breed in warm, stagnant water, so staff members continually work to drain trash bins, unclog gutters and prevent other man-made structures from becoming breeding areas.

Waters that do not contain fish or other animals that eat mosquito larvae may also become breeding areas, so employees monitor more than 100 of these sites for the presence of culex. If they find culex larvae, they treat the sites with a biologically derived mosquito larvicide that kills the insects but does not harm the surrounding environment. Employees also routinely use larvicide in storm water catch basins in forest preserve parking lots.

“The potential to contract West Nile virus is greatest after stretches of hot summer weather in July and August, but individuals should always protect themselves against mosquito bites by using insect repellent containing DEET in accordance with the product directions, dressing in long pants and long sleeves, and avoiding the outdoors at dawn and dusk when mosquitoes are most active,” said Velat.

He also urges residents to check around their homes and drain any items that could hold standing water.

More information is available at dupageforest.org, under “Plants, Animals and Habitats” and “Living with Mosquitoes.”

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