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West Nile confirmed in Harris County | Here's how the county traps and tests mosquitoes

The little suckers die a very cold death in freezers, and then, they are sorted – one by one. Liquefied into a sample, they’re then squirted onto a test plate.

HARRIS COUNTY, Texas — With coronavirus taking over the past year of our lives, it’s easy to forget there are other illnesses out there we still need to think about, like West Nile virus.

County health officials have confirmed the virus is here, again, in Harris County.

The truth is - it was only a matter of time. 

“We get it year in and year out. We’ve had it since 2002," Chris Fredregill, director of HCPH Mosquito and Vector Control Division, said. 

While most people, 80 percent, won’t even know if they get the virus, about 20 percent will develop symptoms.

But a small percentage may have a severe illness or even die. According to the CDC, Texas, alone, had 20 people die from the virus in the past year. 

“So it really just serves as a reminder of the importance of personal protection and prevention of these mosquito populations," Fredregill said. 

Populations that are monitored every day in Harris County by the mosquito control team that sets up to 350 traps every week. 

“Now we’re just relying on our traps to tell us where the virus is," Fredregill said. 

Those traps pull in thousands of mosquitoes. The little suckers die a very cold death in freezers, and then, they are sorted, one by one to find the specific breeds that carry virus.  

“We test our mosquitoes for West Nile virus, St. Louis Encephalitis, dengue, Chikungunya, and Zika," Fredregill said. 

Once sorted, they’re brought to a lab, and well, liquefied into a sample. They’re then squirted onto a test plate, and the software helps to verify any virus.

“And so we start treating now in order to lower those populations," Fredregill said. 

Now, that West Nile is confirmed, the county will spray in the area the mosquito was found, but really your best defense is to empty all standing water and wear your bug spray.