CINCINNATI - Parts of southern Ohio is about to get an unwanted guest in the form of blood-sucking, disease-spreading mosquitoes.
Experts say leading the swarm will be the Asian tiger mosquito, a black and white striped variety that carries diseases like encephalitis and West Nile virus.
“The Asian tiger mosquito can transmit up to 20 different diseases,” said Dr. Gene Kritsky, professor of biology at the College of Mount St. Joseph. “We had two cases of West Nile last year in Hamilton County and one death, so we're gearing up for the possibility of an increase of West Nile being reported in our region.”
The quarter-inch long Asian tiger mosquito is native to the tropical and subtropical areas of Southeast Asia. It came to United States in the 1980s, possibly carried in standing water found in used tires shipped from Asia, experts say.
Since its arrival, the breed has spread in urban and suburban areas of the Midwest, and started showing up in the parts of Ohio, Indiana and Kentucky just a few years ago.
But the Asian tiger mosquito could soon be invading the region in droves due to recent heavy rain.
In July, parts of southern Ohio near Cincinnati saw close to six inches of rain, providing the perfect breeding ground for mosquitos to multiply. And unlike other mosquitoes, Asian tiger mosquitoes bite all day long.
“Other mosquitoes tend to bite at sunrise and sundown, but this particular kind of mosquito will find humans and enjoy a human blood meal throughout the day,” Kritsky said. “A lot of other mosquitoes tend to bite other species, but the Asian tiger mosquito will actually seek humans out. It knows what it likes.”
Kritsky said last year, Hamilton County had about 80 cases of mosquitoes carrying West Nile virus.
He said those most at risk from disease are the elderly and very young. Last year, a 76-year-old man died from the virus.
While not every Asian tiger mosquito is carrying a disease, Kritsky said it’s important to protect yourself outside by wearing long sleeves, long pants and treating your clothing with DEET and other repellents.
“The West Nile mosquito can breed in as little water as a bottle cap,” Kritsky said “All this rain we've had over the last few weeks has provided an ample environment for mosquitoes to breed.”
Kritsky said certain people should be extra careful in the coming months.
Mosquitoes tend to be attracted to people with type O blood. And on top of that, 85 percent of humans produce chemicals through their sweat that mosquitoes use to detect blood types from up to 50 yards away.
"You've probably been out with friends and there seems to be one person that's getting bit all the time,” Kritsky said. “It's almost like the mosquito has put an apple in their mouth and flown them away for dinner somewhere."
Greg Singleton, WCPO contributed to this report
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