Mosquitoes population high in St. Johns Co.

Recent rains to blame

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ST. JOHNS COUNTY, Fla. - Last July, Cheryl Peterson's life turned upside down. She got the West Nile virus.

"I would never wish that on nobody," Peterson said. "I've never been so sick in my life. I actually thought at times I wish I'd just go ahead and die and get it over."

Peterson spent a week in the hospital, but she said it took her four months to recover.

All the recent rain is like a mosquito's paradise.

"Earlier today, I was in the woods walking in a swamp, and I nearly didn't have to walk. They were carrying me," Bob Robinson, of Anastasia Mosquito Control, said of the number of mosquitoes in the area.

Robinson inspects areas like a ditch next to a middle school by scooping up a water sample. In one case Tuesday, he found larvae.

"If you find one in a ditch like this, that gives you justification to spray the whole ditch," he said.

So he straps on his gloves and mask and gets to work.

"We're getting thousands and thousands. Tens of thousands are hatching out as we speak," Robinson said.

Every week, counties test the blood of chickens to see if they've contracted the West Nile virus. In St. Johns County, nine sentinel chickens have tested positive for West Nile so far this year. That's a relatively high number, health officials said.

"You don't want to get West Nile virus, and then there's (Eastern) equine encephalitis, which mostly affects horses, but it can come to humans and it's fatal," Robinson said. "It's a very deadly disease, so we want to keep the mosquito population as low as we can."

Robinson will continue spraying to prevent people like Peterson from getting the disease.

"No, I never dreamed I would ever get it, but I'm glad it was me and not one of my kids or grandkids," Peterson said.

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