Scientists from UF/IFAS Florida Medical Entomology Laboratory in Vero Beach have warned Florida residents to remain cautious of West Nile virus.
West Nile virus is a dangerous illness that is transmitted through the bites of mosquitoes infected with the virus.
The researchers have been conducting ongoing studies to determine what would be the best way to stop the virus from spreading as well as to monitor its extent. They have been tracking rainfall, mosquito abundance, groundwater levels, virus transmission to animals (including sentinel chickens and horses), and wild bird populations.
Using this data, they hope to track the transmission of the virus between wild birds and mosquitoes. Their main concern is monitoring mosquito infection rates in order to stop the spread before it harms humans.
"However, historical epidemics of St. Louis encephalitis in Florida alert us to the eventual possibility of a widespread West Nile epidemic if and when the important environmental factors line up," Jonathan Day, a professor at the UF/IFAS lab in Vero Beach, said.
"We have had outbreaks of West Nile virus in Florida," Day said. "Individual cases or a cluster of 20 or 25 cases are not unusual in Florida, but are very difficult to predict. We stay clear of forecasting small outbreaks and sporadic individual West Nile human cases because trying to predict these are like trying to predict lightning strikes."