Mosquitoes test positive for West Nile virus in Kent, Portage County


Local health departments find mosquito pools containing West Nile virus.

Carley Hull

The City of Kent and Portage County Health Departments are taking measures to rid the area of mosquitoes after five mosquito pools tested positive for West Nile virus.

The City of Kent Health Department confirmed four positive pools, three in Kent and one in Brimfield in August. Kent State University labs confirmed a fourth positive Kent mosquito pool last week, but results from the Ohio Department of Health are pending, said Jeff Neistadt, City of Kent Health Commissioner.

These are the first West Nile virus positive mosquitoes confirmed in the county.

“I wouldn’t say (that people should be) alarmed by any means,” Neistadt said. “I think aware is a better word. Be aware that the virus is in the area, that it is transmitted via the adult mosquito. Definitely take some precautions really to minimize your risk of exposure to mosquitoes.”

Eradicating mosquitoes 

Mosquito spraying in Kent is planned to increase to two times a week, and larviciding has increased to keep mosquito larvae from hatching into adults, Neistadt said. Mosquito traps have doubled to eight in the four surveillance quadrants of Kent.

How to prevent a West Nile virus infection

Residents of Portage County should take the following precautions:

  • Eliminate standing water on property.
  • File a Mosquito Service Request Form for more services from the City of Kent Health Department.
  • Wear proper clothing such as long sleeves and pants after dusk hours.
  • Use a mosquito repellent when outside.

   Information from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

“So in any standing water area, we have definitely increased our larviciding programs,” Neistadt said. “Any wet areas we put larvicide in to make sure they weren’t hatching into adult mosquitoes.”

Female mosquitos are the ones that bite and therefore transmit the disease. To test the mosquito pools, the female insects are sent to both Kent State labs and Ohio Department of Health labs due to time and contract agreements, Neistadt said.

It can take anywhere from five to six days for results from the Ohio Department of Health, said Richard Gary, Ohio Department of Health entomologist.

Portage County Health Commissioner DuWayne Porter said residents need to understand that West Nile virus is endemic and is here in Kent, but there is no need to panic. 

West Nile virus-positive mosquitoes have already been in neighboring counties such as Summit and Cuyahoga counties. Portage county and Kent have not tested their trapped mosquitoes until this year, Neistadt said.

“Unfortunately once we start to find positive pools of mosquitoes, it is only a matter of time before transmission,” Neistadt said. “Even with the low transmission rate.”

West Nile virus awareness

About 70 to 80 percent of people infected show no symptoms while one in five people develop symptoms such as fatigue, aches and pains, vomiting, diarrhea and a rash that takes weeks or months to recover from, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Less than 1 percent of those infected will die from a neurological illness like encephalitis or meningitis.

This year has been a relatively low transmission year for both mosquitoes and people compared to other years.

“So far this year we’ve seen 11 positive mosquito pools (in Ohio) which sounds like a lot, but this time in 2012, which was an outbreak year for us, we had well over a thousand,” Gary said.

In Ohio, three human infections in Cuyahoga, Muskingum and Hamilton counties have been reported, according to the Ohio Department of Health. Of those infections, a 24-year-old female in Muskingum County and a 78-year-old female in Cuyahoga County have been hospitalized with encephalitis.

These numbers have decreased from the 24 human incidences found in 2013 and the 122 cases in 2012, according to the Ohio Department of Health.

“I cannot say for sure, but I do believe weather plays a role [in the low incidence rates],” Gary said. “If you look at the outbreak years that we’ve had here in the Midwest they tend to be much hotter years…I know that seems counterintuitive because mosquitoes breed in water, but it has been during these dryer warmer years that we’ve had more (mosquito) outbreaks.”

Neistadt also agreed that this summer’s cold and rainy weather may have contributed to the low number of human and mosquito infections, but the Kent Health Department has upped its response to treating standing water where mosquitoes lay their eggs.

Contact Carley Hull at [email protected].