Researchers keep close eye on West Nile virus - WKRN News 2

Researchers keep close eye on West Nile virus

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. -

So far it's been a relatively quiet summer when it comes to the West Nile virus in our area, but that's about to change.

According to the state health department, most of the positive human cases of West Nile virus pop up during August and September.

Meanwhile the city of Dallas has declared a state of emergency.

More than 200 people have been sickened by the virus and 10 have died.

Researchers with the state don't believe Tennessee is anywhere near that kind of outbreak, but still warn people to be careful.

For months now, the Davidson County Health Department has been trapping mosquitoes.

There's a freezer full of special nets with mosquitoes inside at their main office on 23rd Avenue North.

Every week, around 60 of these nets are placed all over the county.

Trapped mosquitoes are frozen and then shipped off to the state for testing.

"We have had only one batch of mosquitoes that tested positive for West Nile and that happened back in June," explained Brian Todd, spokesperson with the Metro Health Department.

Now that it has rained and it's later in the summer, researchers with the state health department suspect they'll begin seeing more mosquitoes test positive for the virus, and along with that, more positive human cases.

"There certainly is a lot of West Nile virus out there," said Dr. Abelardo Moncayo, an epidemiologist with the state "We're going to at least match the number of human cases we saw last year."

Last year, 18 people tested positive for the virus, including two who passed away.

So far this year, three people have tested positive. Two cases were confirmed in Shelby County and one in Greene County.

Dr. Moncayo said these cases are all confirmed since August started.

Dr. Moncayo told Nashville's News 2 there's more of the West Nile virus out there in birds and mosquitoes, because the weather over the last year created the perfect environment for the virus to thrive.

"What we're seeing is a mild winter where you don't have that many mosquitoes that have died," said Dr. Moncayo, "So you have a big population to start with and then you have really hot summers in a lot of parts of the country, including Tennessee."

Todd added, "What goes on in Dallas and other parts of the country, what we're seeing now, is really a reminder that you need to take those precautions."

Dr. Abelardo encourages anyone who spots a dead crow or blue-jay to contact their local health department so it can be tested.

Click here for more tips and information on West Nile virus.

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