Mild winter, rainy spring creates prime environment for mosquitoes

EAST BATON ROUGE PARISH, LA (WAFB) - For Melissa Morrissey and her kids, anytime the sun shines is a good time to enjoy the outdoors. However, the Baton Rouge mom says it's only a matter of time each day before pests drive them back inside.

"We just know there comes a certain point in time that the mosquitoes come out and it's time to go inside," said Morrissey.

As spring turns to summer, the family may see mosquitoes buzzing around more frequently. Experts say weather patterns could be creating a prime environment for even more mosquitoes. "Mild winters, a lot of rain lately, that may translate into increasing mosquito numbers," said Randy Vaith with East Baton Rouge Mosquito Abatement.

Vaith says it's hard to predict what the local mosquito population will do, but crews with East Baton Rouge Mosquito Abatement are closely monitoring traps for any increase and are testing for any disease those mosquitoes may be carrying, including eastern equine encephalitis, St. Louis encephalitis, and West Nile virus.

The Louisiana Department of Health reported 64 cases of West Nile virus in 2016. Most cases aren't serious, but doctors say some symptoms can be red flags. "The only time to be concerned is when there is truly that high fever, muscle aches, and headaches. That type of thing would require future treatment," said infectious disease specialist, Dr. Kenny Cole with Baton Rouge General Hospital.

Ticks are also a problem in the summer. While Lyme disease may be the most well known tick-transmitted illness, Cole says it's not common in Louisiana. He explains doctors locally will more often see cases of something called southern tick associated rash illness or STARI.

"That can actually cause a rash that looks just like Lyme disease," said Cole. "It fortunately it is not associated with the long-term sequelae of Lyme disease."

Whether it's ticks or mosquitoes, the experts say preventing a bite is always best. EBR Mosquito Abatement is already spraying with trucks five nights per week. You can do your part by taking precautions like emptying standing water, wearing long sleeves and pants, and always using bug repellent.

Copyright 2017 WAFB. All rights reserved.