(KRON) – Below average rain and reservoirs may sound like fewer water sources to produce mosquitoes that carry West Nile virus during a drought. But vector control experts say drought years actually increase mosquito-borne illnesses. 

The risk of west Nile virus increases during a drought because there is less moving water in creeks and streams. The water’s movement makes it difficult for mosquitoes to breathe. 

Officials at the Contra Costa Mosquito and Vector Control District (CCMVCD) are raising awareness that hot, dry weather mixed with what may appear to be an insignificant amount of standing water, are actually the perfect conditions for mosquitoes and birds to become infected and spread West Nile virus. 

Symptoms of the West Nile virus include: 

  • High fever
  • Disorientation
  • Coma
  • Muscle weakness 
  • Lack of vision

“So far in 2022 here in Contra Costa County, we have had one dead bird test positive for mosquitoes. That’s significant because West Nile virus is actually a disease that comes from certain birds,” said Nole Woods, spokesperson for the CCMVCD.

KRON4 asked Woods what residents can do to reduce the risk of West Nile virus and mosquitos during a drought.

“The key to reduce the risk of West Nile virus is to make sure residents dump out any amount of standing water on their property,” she answered. “Because believe it or not, mosquitoes can actually come from something as small as a bottle cap full of water.”

Mosquito-eating fish are another way of controlling the problem and are available at CCMVCD for Contra Costa residents. 

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“People can request mosquito fish service, who live in Contra Costa County, from the district. What we do is we will come out and provide an inspection of the water feature, determine if mosquito fish are appropriate, and if they are, we will place mosquito fish in that water feature,” Woods said.