LAS VEGAS (KTNV) — Mosquitoes have been much more than annoying in Clark County in 2019.
They've been dangerous, spreading the West Nile Virus to at least 16 people in the Las Vegas valley.
It's caught several people like Jim Whatley, who assumed Southern Nevada's arid climate killed most mosquitoes, off guard.
"It's kind of scary," Whatley said. "That kind of puts a damper on wanting to experience the great outdoors."
At the Southern Nevada Health District, Senior Disease Investigator Devin Raman says mosquitoes are around every year, but the proliferation of West Nile Virus is more random.
"Every year is different," she said.
In 2018, only .1% of collected and tested mosquitoes tested positive as West Nile carriers, and the disease wasn't transmitted to people as a result.
This year, 17%, or nearly one in five collected mosquitoes, have tested positive as West Nile carriers.
Raman said it's impossible to predict how West Nile will spread among mosquito populations from year to year because it depends on how many infected birds enter the Las Vegas area and how many mosquitoes bite those birds.
She's urging people to help stem the spread of the disease, that at best feels like a nasty flu and at worst can cause paralysis, brain damage, coma and seizures, by wearing bugspray that contains DEET, wearing long sleeves, and avoiding the outdoors during dusk and dawn when mosquitoes like to feed.
Raman said people also need to find and destroy mosquito breeding grounds.
Trent English, Territory Inspector with Truly Nolen Pest Control, said any standing water is a breeding ground for the tiny insects.
"The best course of action is to remove the conducive conditions," English said. "You want to make sure that you're flushing and cleaning your gutters. Fountains that are sitting stagnant and building algae."
Raman says while the health district doesn't have a mosquito abatement program of their own, people can still call them at (702) 759-1000 to report problem areas and they will work with local municipalities to solve the issues.