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Slow start for mosquitos

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CHATHAM CO., GA (WTOC) -

If you haven't heard, or noticed, the Chatham County Mosquito Control flying much so far this spring, you're not alone. 

The team has only flown 15 times for aerial spraying this year, compared to 22 times last year during the same time frame, and they started a week early this year.

Mosquito Control says they've seen less nuisance mosquitoes because of a drier spring and longer winter, but that's a bad thing when watching for West Nile disease.

Dr. Henry Lewandowski said stagnant water is prime breeding ground for West Nile carrying mosquitoes. "They are primarily breeding in our storm water catch basins and the storm water system, and when it doesn't rain, the storm water system doesn't get flushed out," said Lewandowski.

The map of Chatham County they keep for spraying references and mark with pins is dotted with more than a dozen red push-pins indicating last year's West Nile and Eastern Equine Encephalitis confirmations. So far this year, no green pins are located on the map, and that means no West Nile or Eastern Equine Encephalitis.

Now, there's something new they're keeping their eye on and trying to get ahead of: the Chikungunya Virus, a relatively new virus to the U.S. spread by the bite of a mosquito.

"We are ready for it," Lewandowski said. "We are acquiring some equipment to collect the specific mosquitoes. We have two species here that could potentially transmit that virus."

Even with 25 confirmed cases in Florida alone, and the closest case being in Jacksonville, the doctor said he doesn't believe we'll be affected anytime in the near future.

As far as our current mosquito season goes, pilot Mark Hansen hasn't had much air time this year, but he isn't saying he's grounded for the rest.

"You know, after a decade doing this, there's no crystal ball for this," Hansen said, "You really don't know what you're going to get until it arrives."

While most of us are enjoying an extended time of not swatting and slapping the bugs away, Dr. Lewandowski said all it takes is a heavy continuous rain to change the mosquito game.

If you see them or feel them, call Mosquito Control at 912.790.2540.

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