Washington, D.C. identifies West Nile mosquitoes

The Washington D.C. Department of Health announced last week that it has positively identified West Nile virus in several mosquito samples in the Adams Morgan, Woodley Park and North Cleveland Park neighborhoods.

Identification of the disease has also been reported in recent days in Fairfax County, Va., but not in Maryland, the Washington Post reports. The disease, which is an infection of birds that is picked up by mosquitoes and spread to humans, has plagued the area since 1999, when it was identified near Baltimore. At its peak in 2002, 10 people from Maryland, the District and Virginia died from the disease.

Since 1999, 1,220 people have died in the U.S. from the virus, with 25 from Maryland, the District and Virginia. The virus takes a bigger toll on birds than humans and multiple bird species in North America have had drastic population declines since its arrival. A 2007 study found that this population decline has imposed ecological stresses on a variety of other animals and plants.

Senior citizens or people with compromised immune systems are encouraged to stay indoors during periods when mosquitoes are active. All others should use mosquito repellants and dispose of any outdoor containers that could collect water, an ideal spot for insect larvae.

After an area tests positive for mosquitoes with West Nile, the D.C. health department applies larvacide to surrounding sewer drains, catch basins and stagnant pools to control mosquitoes, the Washington Post reports.