Get out your bug spray. Douglas County health officials say there could be a late-summer increase in West Nile-infected mosquitoes.

Jon Ruff, a registered environmental health specialist with the Douglas County Health Department, said that the stagnant water leftover from flooding probably increased mosquito populations, but that it’s receding water that has him worried.

Ruff said there’s a common misconception that more water means more mosquitoes infected with the West Nile virus.

“That’s not the case,” Ruff said. “When there’s plenty of water, the birds and mosquitoes don’t have to share the same water sources, and the number of cases actually goes down.”

But when mosquitoes and birds have to share a water source, the disease is more easily passed back and forth. Now an increased mosquito population will soon be vying for a decreasing water supply.

Sign up for World-Herald news alerts

Be the first to know when news happens. Get the latest breaking headlines sent straight to your inbox.

“This is an uncanny year, we had more flooding than I’ve seen in my lifetime,” Ruff said. “I can only speculate on what’s going to happen.”

So far this year, four mosquito sample groups in Douglas County have tested positive for West Nile, including samples from Seymour Smith Park and Zorinsky Lake Park. Mosquitoes from five other Nebraska counties have tested positive for West Nile, as of early August .

One human case of the West Nile virus has been reported in Douglas County this year. And in a separate case, a northern Nebraska woman died from the virus in May.

Ruff spent an afternoon last week collecting mosquito traps from various locations in Douglas County for testing.

The trapped mosquitoes are sent to a lab in Lincoln, where changes in population, species and the number infected with West Nile are recorded.

With the information collected, the Health Department takes steps to treat stagnant water with a growth regulator that prevents the mosquitoes from reaching a mature state and being able to bite.

“Our success rate does go up when the public is willing to engage in this mosquito control,” Ruff said. “They should try to dump or treat anything with stagnant water, gutters, tires, birdbaths and pools if they have (stagnant water).”

Commenting is limited to Omaha World-Herald subscribers. To sign up, click here.

If you're already a subscriber and need to activate your access or log in, click here.

Load comments

You must be a full digital subscriber to read this article You must be a digital subscriber to view this article.