Entomologist Dr. Jorges Arias of Fairfax County, Va., survivor of severe case of West Nile virus, says local mosquitoes prefer biting birds not humans

4:30 PM, Aug 17, 2012   |    comments
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FAIRFAX, Va. (WUSA) -- The Centers for Disease Control says the West Nile Virus is spreading faster than ever before because of the mild winter and rainy spring.

There are two cases each in Maryland and Virginia. The four patients will be okay.

There are nearly 700 cases of West Nile nationwide, the most reported for this time of year since the CDC has started recording cases.
80 percent of people who have it don't have symptoms and don't get sick.

Local health departments say you can do a lot to prevent a mosquito bite:

Use bug spray
Wear long sleeves
Eliminate standing water in old tires, bird baths, flower pots, kiddie pools and at the bottom of your down spouts.

Experts suggest using 'Mosquito Dunks.' You can tie a string around it and your down spout so it doesn't wash away in the rain. It can kill mosquito larvae for up to a month.

Last year, there were eight cases in Virginia including one death. In Maryland, there were 19 cases including one death.
A pair of mosquitoes can create a population of thousands in a matter of several weeks.

Entomologist Dr. Jorges Arias is the mosquito expert at the Fairfax County Health Department. He studies and collects data.

But he's also a walking miracle from a mosquito bite that nearly killed him last August. He says he suspects he got bitten while walking the dog. It took days for a diagnosis before his wife told the doctor to test for West Nile.

"I went to the hospital with a fever," he said. Then more severe symptoms started showing up. "I started having seizures and they induced me into a coma."

He spent a week in a coma but a total of two months in the hospital and needed four months to learn to walk again.

He still uses a cane, residuals from the near death experience.
Despite the bite, he has no ill feelings toward the insects.

"I love insects, they're so fascinating."

He just wants people to be aware and take precautions While he says there are no human cases of West Nile in Northern Virginia, there are plenty of cases of infected mosquitoes.

"In week 22, it was positive, we tested again in week 23 thinking it was a fluke. There was positive in week 24 and now we are up to about 19 mosquitoes per 1000 [that] are infected," he said.

Dr. Arias adds the mosquitoes that have killed in Texas where they're doing aerial spraying are not the same species as the ones here.

"It's never come this way, I don't know why but I''m very glad."

The good news for us, he says is that the mosquitoes in Texas will bite at anything but the ones here prefer birds.

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