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Person with West Nile virus confirmed in Grand Forks County, mosquito spraying planned tonight

As one person was diagnosed with West Nile virus in Grand Forks County this week, the city is continuing to fight its longest mosquito season in years. "I was actually surprised we didn't have a case (of West Nile) earlier," because of how quick ...

A female Aedes aegypti mosquito is shown in this 2006 Center for Disease Control (CDC) handout file photograph released to Reuters on October 30, 2013. REUTERS/James Gathany/CDC/Handout via Reuters/Files


As one person was diagnosed with West Nile virus in Grand Forks County this week, the city is continuing to fight its longest mosquito season in years.

“I was actually surprised we didn’t have a case (of West Nile) earlier,” because of how quick mosquitoes came out this year, said Todd Hanson, mosquito control supervisor with Grand Forks Public Health Department.

The disease was identified in Grand Forks mosquitoes July 7, Hanson said. As the mosquito season winds down, the levels of potential West Nile mosquitoes are decreasing, he said, but he still urges residents to use insect repellent and other precautions.

One West Nile-related death has been reported in North Dakota this year, Hanson said. The state department of health will not release where that death occurred, but it was not in Grand Forks County, he said.


No deaths related to West Nile have occurred across the river in Minnesota this year, according to the Minnesota Department of Health.

Costly season

Mosquitoes hit Grand Forks early this year. Public Health did its first mosquito control spray, which involves vehicles spraying a mosquito-killing mist around town, in May - the earliest mosquito spray in Hanson’s 19 years with the department.

And since the region hasn’t experienced its first frost yet, the mosquito fight is continuing. The city did its 19th spray of the season Thursday.

The longer mosquito season has hit the city’s pocketbook, with Public Health dipping into its reserves to pay for the extra mosquito control needed. If Thursday’s spraying is the last of the season, public health will amend its budget, adding about $32,000, Hanson said. Extra spraying would cost more.

It’s not unusual for the city to adjust its mosquito control budget as summer goes on, Hanson said, because mosquitoes and West Nile virus are difficult to predict.

For example, in 2005 the city’s mosquito control was all spent, with no reserves left. But the following year, the city didn’t have to spray for mosquitoes at all, saving its funding allocation to replenish its reserves, Hanson said.

West Nile cases


But despite the longer mosquito season this year, West Nile virus has been less prevalent nationwide, including in North Dakota and Minnesota.

There have been 21 human cases of West Nile reported in North Dakota so far this year and four cases so far in Minnesota. None of the Minnesota cases were in Polk County, as all were in central and southern parts of the state.

Last year, North Dakota had 127 human cases of West Nile, with two deaths, and there were 89 cases in 2012, with one death, according to the North Dakota Department of Health.

Minnesota had 79 human cases, with three deaths, in 2013, and 70 cases, with one death, in 2012, according to the Minnesota Department of Health.

The only West Nile-related death in Grand Forks was in 2002, when the disease was first discovered in North Dakota, Hanson said. The following year, local mosquito control was reorganized to better target West Nile, he said.

Although there are fewer reported cases of West Nile now compared to this time last year, that doesn’t mean the numbers will be lower by the end of the season, said Alicia Lepp, of North Dakota Department of Health’s West Nile program.

West Nile virus is sporadic and tough to predict, Lepp said, adding that she expects more cases to be discovered before the end of this year.



Mosquito season isn’t over yet, and Alicia Lepp of the North Dakota Department of Health encourages people to continue protecting themselves against the buzzing, biting insects.

Some tips from the health department are:

  •  Wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants
  •  Stay indoors during evening and early morning hours
  •  Keep grass cut short
  •  Use insect repellent
  •  Regularly change standing water, such as birdbaths or wading pools

While West Nile virus can cause death, most people with the disease don’t have any symptoms and are unaware they have the disease, said Todd Hanson, mosquito control supervisor in Grand Forks.
Severe forms of West Nile are most common among people older than 60, he said.



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