Funny-looking, foul-smelling contraptions were hard at work Wednesday for Wildwood residents. They are small units developed by St. Louis County Health Department employees to catch mosquitoes for monitoring the incidence of West Nile Virus, a serious, life-altering disease spread by mosquitoes.
Eden Watkins, vector control assistant, St. Louis County Health Department, said while county mosquito traps are put out each month somewhere within the county, this is the first time traps were placed this far west into Wildwood's far-reaching boundary in the Jellystone Park/Interstate 44/almost Franklin County area.
Watkins placed mosquito bait traps out Wednesday evening and a colleague will pick them up Thursday morning.
If you're ever near one of these bait traps, you certainly will know it due to the sour smell they project. Watkins said she and her colleagues create a concoction out of grass clippings and water, hence the nickname "stink bait." She said mosquitoes are attracted to the liquid, thinking that it will be a nourishing place to lay their eggs. A battery-powered fan element of the trap prompts the mosquitoes to be sucked up into the upper part and captured for evaluation.
Watkins said county health employees also plan to spray in Wildwood this week for mosquito control. She said mosquitoes do not appear to be as plentiful this year as last due to the drought conditions, but that it is still a good idea to switch out frequently those places near residences were water can stand, such as bird baths, buckets and old tires.
She said the largest number trapped overnight in one unit this year within St. Louis County was more than 1,200 mosquitoes; that was in Hanley Hills.
The West Nile flavivirus was first identified in 1937 in Uganda in eastern Africa, according to medical sources. By 1999, it was seen in New York, and then spread throughout the United States. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website indicates more than 30,000 people in the United States have been reported as getting sick with West Nile virus.
Researchers believe West Nile virus spreads when a mosquito bites an infected bird and then bites a person.
Mosquitos carry the highest amounts of virus in the early fall, which is why the rate of the disease increases in late August to early September. The risk of disease decreases as the weather becomes colder and mosquitos die off.