SOUTH KINGSTOWN, R.I. (WPRI) — Most of Southern New England continues to feel the impacts of a severe drought, but not all of them are bad.
At this time last year, West Nile virus had been detected in four separate mosquito samples.
So far this year? None.
Al Gettman, mosquito abatement coordinator for the R.I. Department of Environmental Management (DEM), says the likely cause is the dry conditions.
An average day for Gettman includes examining mosquitoes in his office at the University of Rhode Island’s East Farm. Upon inspection, he separates the mosquitoes by species before sending them off to the R.I. Department of Health to be tested for diseases such as West Nile virus (WNV) and Eastern equine encephalitis (EEE).
Gettman tells 12 News that on a typical summer day, the number of mosquitoes in a trap can range from zero to a few hundred, but the average is 30 to 50.
This summer, that number can be cut in half, according to Gettman. He said with less standing water, there aren’t as many breeding grounds for these pests.
“Fewer mosquitoes would mean less disease likelihood,” he added.
Mosquitoes aren’t the only insects that need water, however.
“Everyone wants to stay hydrated. Ticks want to stay hydrated,” said Dr. Thomas Mather, director of URI’s Tick Encounter Resource Center.
Mather says black-legged ticks, one of the species found in our area that can carry Lyme disease, don’t necessarily rely on rain for hydration.
“Moisture comes in a lot of different forms, including humidity,” Mather explained.
Humidity has been persistent, especially in coastal areas, and as a result, Mather’s research team has noticed a population trend.
“They found that there were places near the coast where there were plenty of nymphal black-legged ticks, and places upstate there were less,” Mather said.
Preliminary data from the Health Department shows an increase in cases of tick-borne illnesses this season.
Health officials are urging the public to stay vigilant against tick and mosquito bites.