Why is West Nile hitting state so hard?

Why is West Nile hitting state so hard? by David Lias Not everyone in South Dakota may be crazy about the notion of aerial spraying of pesticides over the state's major communities.

There's one fact, however, that no one can dispute. The West Nile Virus is literally racing across South Dakota.

It's intensity is baffling everyone, from laymen to experts.

There are now more nearly 540 confirmed cases of human West Nile Virus in South Dakota. It has killed seven state residents.

"Now is the time to protect yourself. Every South Dakota is urged to take personal protective measures," Lon Kightlinger, state epidemiologist, said in a conference call to South Dakota media Wednesday. "Use caution when you're out of doors, and limit your time outdoors, especially if you're elderly."

He urges South Dakotans to wear pants, shirts, and socks when outdoors. They should also use a mosquito repellent containing DEET on exposed areas, he said.

"The West Nile Virus is moving through the state and finding ecological niches," he said. "For some reason, and nobody really understands why, it is doing well in the drought area of North American, mainly the Great Plains of South Dakota, Nebraska, eastern Wyoming and eastern Colorado."

Early this spring, Vermillion city officials took action to try to ward off West Nile. Citizens were urged to clean up areas of standing water, which are prime mosquito breeding grounds.

Bat houses were erected in city parks and goldfish were released in the water hazards at The Bluffs golf course. The fish dine on mosquito larvae; the bats consume large quantities of adult mosquitoes.

Environmentally-friendly larvicide was also introduced to areas of standing water to kill mosquitoes after they hatched. The virus still spread at levels that warranted aerial spraying.

"West Nile has been confounded scientists across the country since it entered the United States in 1999 in New York City," Kightlinger said. "In the past it has been an urban center disease ? years before it was a swamp disease in Louisiana and Florida, and this year, it's attacking the Great Plains."

Individuals with questions or concerns can contact the state's operations center at 1-800-932-4027.

Information about the spraying project will also be posted on the Department of Health's Web site at www.state.sd.us/doh/.

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