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Traps Help W.F. Mosquito Crews Find Carriers of West Nile

The first pool of mosquitoes this year in Wichita Falls has tested positive for the West Nile virus and health officials are on the lookout for more cases. But how do they go about catching the insects to test them? Mechell Dixon spoke with city mosquito control crews to find out.

Catching and testing mosquitoes for West Nile is a hot, dirty and smelly job but crews say it's essential in the early warning system for West Nile.

Finding mosquitoes to see if they test positive for West Nile requires field work for Wichita Falls Wichita County Public Health District crews and, of course, a trap.

'It operates on the basis of stagnant water, very foul smelling water, which the Culex mosquito really loves," says Jimmy Garcia, health inspections supervisor.

This water smells like sewer water but its a little bit of heaven for the Culex mosquito, which then allows the trap to do its job.

"There is a little vacuum at the bottom of the trap and they eventually get sucked up through the trap and get caught within a net," Garcia explains.

Garcia says mosquitoes are collected and shipped by overnight air to the state lab in Austin for testing and health officials have results in four to six days.
But how do crews know where to place traps in a city that spans more than 70 square miles?

"We base that on the number of complaints and the number of adult mosquitoes the technicians see when they're out and about but we generally cover all areas of the town," Garcia says.

Garcia says about 40 traps are set around town each week.
Insects collected this week have already been sent to Austin.
Results should be in the middle of next week on whether any of those mosquito pools tested positive for West Nile.
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