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News >  Nation/World

Arrival of mosquitoes next woe for Gulf Coast

Charles Piller Los Angeles Times

The incessant buzz is just beginning.

Breeding in standing water throughout the Gulf Coast, voracious mosquitoes will soon inundate some areas devastated by Hurricane Katrina, landing at a rate of up to 200 a minute on exposed arms and legs.

A few will carry West Nile virus or other diseases, experts say, but most simply will be a maddening nuisance to relief workers and evacuees sleeping outdoors or in damaged homes.

In inland areas, away from the worst storm damage, the problem could be just as bad.

Mosquitoes are notorious disease spreaders. The biggest fear is that the West Nile outbreak already active in the gulf region will worsen. In New Orleans, Mayor C. Ray Nagin is eager to spray the city with chemicals to kill mosquitoes breeding in floodwaters; he has asked the federal government for crop dusters to carry out the plan.

But health officials downplayed the prospect of a rapidly spreading health threat.

“Ecologically, the disease has a fairly fragile cycle,” said Roger Nasci, who heads the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention entomology team assisting state and local authorities along the Gulf Coast.

West Nile transmission requires a relatively narrow range of bird hosts, weather conditions and species of mosquitoes – all of which were disrupted by the storm.

“When 120 miles-per-hour winds come through, everything leaves,” said Joe Conlon, technical adviser to the American Mosquito Control Association in North Brunswick, N.J. “We don’t anticipate a spike in West Nile fever.”

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