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Metro health officials monitoring mosquito population

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NASHVILLE, TN (WSMV) -

Less than a month into the mosquito breeding season, Tennessee has already seen its first human case of the West Nile virus, but areas like Nashville have been spared so far.

The rain has been both a blessing and a curse for the mosquito population in the Metro area.

"With the rain, it's both good and bad because it makes more standing water, but then again, if there was larva, it will flush it out, and basically, flushing it out it will be going down somewhere else," said Metro Public Health Department worker John Petro.

Health department workers have been out and about since May setting mosquito traps and testing and sometimes treating standing water for mosquito larva.

"So far we've found negative mosquitos so far that have tested positive for West Nile, but we still have a long summer ahead," Petro said.

Last year, Metro Health workers put out 400 mosquitos traps, and 30 batches tested positive for the West Nile virus.

"We think West Nile is here to stay, so as long as you have mosquitos and you have this kind of perfect weather for mosquito breeding, it is likely we will get some cases," said Dr. Sanmi Areola with Metro Public Health Department Environmental Health Services.

The first human case of West Nile in Tennessee was reported in Memphis.

Another mosquito-borne illness, chikungunya, has made it way to the state, transported by people visiting other parts of the world.

Unlike West Nile, a mosquito can bite someone with chikungunya, get infected, and then spread it by biting another person.

Metro Health officials said if mosquitos in the area ever test positive for chikungunya, they will treat them the same as they do those with West Nile.

"It's still the same step, wear mosquito repellant, if you have to go, out wear long-sleeve shirts and long pants to protect yourself from mosquito bites," Areola said.

Residents are also being encouraged to empty bird baths or another containers with water.

"There are basic things mosquitos are looking for; they are looking for standing water and high vegetation," Areola said.

Health officials said it's not a matter of if mosquitos will be found with West Nile in the Metro area, it's a matter of when.

The mosquito breeding season continues until the first freeze.

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