It's cold out now, and the last thing you need to worry about are mosquito bites. But West Nile Virus may be spread more easily than originally thought.
A group of experts meeting in St.Louis now say birds have passed it directly to other birds in a laboratory. And they believe other species entirely may act as a source of the virus.
Scientists admit there's a lot they don't know about West Nile. But even as they learn, we are certain our biggest threat remains mosquitos. And if you think you don't have to worry about West Nile right now, in the middle of winter, you may want to think again. A veterinarian in central Missouri suspects at least two cases of West Nile in horses -- just since the weather turned warmer in early January. But bottom line, anytime it's warm enough for bugs to be out, there is a threat of the virus.
Protecting yourself from mosquito bites is important. So is controling the mosquito population. One way to help do that is with the mosquito fish.
"It's found in lot of public water already," says Mike Reed, a fisheries expert with the Missouri Department of Conservation. "Lots of other species feed on mosquitos, so as a whole, the fish community does a good job of keeping the mosquito population down."
But these tiny fish have an advantage. They can survive in very shallow water, and breath from surface air -- making them great for wading pools, ornamental gardens, and drainage ditches. They quickly reproduce live babies, rather than eggs, which is good since they're easy prey.
"Any fish that eats a minnow will eat a mosquito fish," explains Dr. Paul Wills, manager of the Logan Hollow Fish Farm near Murphysboro."Also birds like heron and kingfishers will get them as well."
The mosquito fish is just one more way to help control one transmitter of the west nile virus. You'll need one fish for every two square feet of water. And they need access to deep water that doesn't freeze in order to survive the winter.
Good luck in finding the mosquito fish. Hatcheries in Missouri aren't carrying them -- yet. Logan Hollow is the only place we found that has a few -- and they'll sell between a nickel to a dime a piece. You can reach them at 618-565-2608.