NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — As parts of Middle Tennessee deal with ongoing drought conditions, the mosquito population is unlikely to see a major decline. However, the species of mosquito that carries the West Nile Virus can thrive in drought conditions.

Rebecca Trout Fryxell, Ph.D., is an Associate Professor for the Department of Entomology and Plant Pathology at the University of Tennessee. Trout Fryxell says that Tennessee is home to approximately 52 species of mosquitoes, and some handle drought better than others and it’s unlikely that we would see a big decrease in the mosquito population if the current drought persists, “I would be hesitant to say fewer mosquitoes, I would say a less diverse mosquito community would become present.”

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Culex mosquitoes are particularly well-equipped to deal with drought. “When we have a lot of drought, the water that’s left behind kind of stays together and piles up. Another way to think of it is kind of like your sewer water. It gets a little bit stickier and a little bit more stagnant. And that leads to perfect conditions for those mosquitoes for our Culex mosquitoes that are the ones that transmit West Nile virus,” said Trout Fryxell.

The good news is that even in drought years, this disease is rare in Middle Tennessee. Data from the Tennessee Department of Health shows a handful of cases most years.

However, Dr. William Schaffner, a Professor of Infectious Diseases at Vanderbilt, says that some cases of West Nile can be very severe, “We talk about West Nile fever, that’s when you can get a disease characterized by fever, aches, and pains not feeling well, and the like, and you have no other cause…On the more serious end, it can occasionally cause encephalitis, that’s an inflamed inflammation of the brain. That’s a much more serious disease. And older persons are much more susceptible if they get infected, to get encephalitis.”

Mosquitoes also tend to be more active in August and September in Middle Tennessee. Wearing long sleeves and pants and using insect repellent is recommended this time of year.

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Dr. Schaffner says there are other reasons to wear repellent, “If you’re going out hiking or doing anything in the brush, even in your backyard, once again, use that insect repellent. You can get a number of tick-borne infections. Two of them are so-called Rocky Mountain spotted fever, and another one has a fancy name of Ehrlichiosis. They can also cause illnesses that give you a fever and can disrupt the organ function inside of a number of different organs that you have, but they’re preventable once again, but you should, even if you’re out there working in your backyard in the brush and bushes, please use insect repellent.”