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June 09, 2014 05:01 PM

Gnats Up, West Nile Threat Down

Area rain totals keep climbing from nearly an inch and a half in Aberdeen to nearly 6.5 inches in Sioux Falls.  While all of that moisture is good for dry land, it is also creating the perfect breeding grounds for bugs that bite.

Here is the good news: So far, Sioux Falls Health Program Coordinator Denise Patton said all of the rain is reducing the threat of West Nile.  That is because the mosquitoes that carry the disease breed near standing water in dry, hot weather.  Last summer, which was hot and dry, brought a higher than usual threat of West Nile. 

"Odds of us having virus present is pretty low, but we're still checking, nevertheless," Patton said, noting that employees have already found mosquitoes in traps.

However, Patton said rainy weather does bring more nuisance mosquitoes.  They may not carry disease, but they bite.  Rain, or, "flowing water," is also the perfect breeding climate for gnats.  Patton said we are seeing more gnats than usual. 

"When they bite, a lot of people have severe reactions.  Sometimes ten-fold what you would see with mosquito bites.  The good news is they don't spread disease.  The bad news is they hurt," Patton said.

Sharon Friemuth, who was at a Sioux Falls park with her grandchildren, said the little bugs have already taken a liking to her husband.

"He has trouble with that. They (the bites) itch so bad," Friemuth said.

City employees will spray for the first time on Monday night.  They will hit the bike trail and the north central part of the city.  Patton also recommends covering up and wearing bug spray to protect yourself whenever you are outside.  Friemuth is not one to nitpick when it comes to gnats or mosquitoes.  She is just happy to get outside, so her grandchildren can play. 

"They get tired of being cooped up in the house.  They like to be out and run around," Friemuth said.

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