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Record Numbers of Mosquitoes Infected with West Nile Virus Detected in Las Vegas

A concerning surge in West Nile virus-infected mosquitoes around Las Vegas has prompted urgent warnings from local health authorities. They advise the public to take precautions against mosquito bites, as the virus can lead to fever, headaches, vomiting, diarrhea, and in rare cases, death.

Recent testing has revealed that 169 out of more than 24,000 mosquito pools across 25 ZIP codes in southern Nevada have tested positive for West Nile virus. This marks a record-breaking early season for both mosquito counts and positive tests, surpassing previous highs set in 2019.

Vivek Raman, an environmental health supervisor at the Southern Nevada Health District, expressed alarm at the scale of the mosquito population and the significant number carrying West Nile virus. Additionally, health officials have identified six mosquito pools in Las Vegas that tested positive for St. Louis encephalitis virus, another serious mosquito-borne illness.

Climate change is seen as a contributing factor, as rising temperatures and altered precipitation patterns create ideal breeding conditions for mosquitoes. This environmental shift extends their active season and enhances the risk of diseases like West Nile virus spreading to new areas.

Las Vegas recorded its first case of West Nile virus in 2004, and health officials fear that this summer’s conditions could lead to a more severe outbreak than in previous years. The region has experienced notably warmer springs and more frequent heatwaves, with temperatures rising significantly since 1970.

Nischay Mishra, an epidemiology professor at Columbia University, attributes the increase in mosquito activity to these rising temperatures, exacerbated by ongoing drought conditions that paradoxically create favorable habitats for the insects.

As the summer progresses, vigilance and preventive measures against mosquito bites will be crucial for residents and visitors in the Las Vegas area.

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