A mosquito that can potentially carry the West Nile virus has been found in St. Johns.
While the West Nile virus itself has not been detected, Culex pipiens, one of three species of mosquito responsible for the transmission of West Nile virus and the primary culprit in Eastern North America, has been found. The species has been collected in the past on the west coast of the island, but it has now been found on the Avalon and within the City of St. Johns.
Memorial University biology student Kate Bassett made the collection and confirmed her identification using DNA fingerprinting. The master of science student researches mosquito-borne viruses in Newfoundland, specifically the Snowshoe Hare virus and the Jamestown Canyon virus. Both infect wildlife but have also been known to infect humans. Part of her research includes collecting mosquitos, identifying them and sending them to the National Microbiology Lab in Winnipeg, Man., to test them for the presence of viruses.
Mosquitos transmit West Nile mainly between birds. In North America the American robin and crow suffer most often from these infections. Humans who are
bitten by a mosquito that has previously fed on an infected bird might develop medical complications related to the virus. This species of mosquito typically looks for roosting birds in the canopies of trees. It breeds within foul and still water, such as that found in a clogged rain gutter or inside a discarded tire.
Outbreaks of West Nile disease this summer have been occurring primarily in the United States. The center of concern has been Texas, but states bordering on Canada, including Michigan, Minnesota, Idaho and Ohio, have also reported cases. In Canada, 62 cases have been reported in Ontario, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Alberta and Quebec.