Disease-Ridden Mosquitoes Are Swarming Vegas

Record number of skeeters carrying West Nile virus are showing up in southern Nevada
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 22, 2024 8:00 AM CDT
Disease-Ridden Mosquitoes Are Swarming Vegas
Stock photo.   (Getty Images/Jojo Dexter)

Dozens of ZIP codes in south Nevada, including Las Vegas, are being overrun by mosquitoes carrying West Nile virus, in what NBC News says are record-busting numbers. Health officials say that, in recent weeks, 24,000 pools of mosquitoes were tested for the contagious disease in 25 ZIP codes in the southern part of the state. Nearly 170 of those pools tested positive for West Nile, and both the number of mosquitoes logged and the number of positively testing pools so early in the season broke records set in 2019.

  • Clark County: Last year, from April to June, 6,000 mosquitoes were cornered in traps in the Nevada county where Vegas is seated. So far this year, that number has already soared to more than 24,000.

  • The pests: Culex mosquitoes are mainly to blame for the recent infestation, though the invasive mosquito known as Aedes aegypti has also been "emerging" in the southern part of the state, spreading to 43 ZIP codes last year, per the Las Vegas Review-Journal. Aedes mosquitoes are said to be capable of carrying West Nile, but they're also known for being vectors for dengue, yellow fever, and the Zika virus, among other diseases.
  • Climate change: NBC notes that Vegas is a "case study" on how an increasingly warm planet plays a part in mosquito spikes. As temps and precipitation levels rise, so, too, do conditions for mosquito breeding. Mosquito season is also extended with warmer weather.
  • West Nile: Symptoms include fever, vomiting, rash, body aches, headaches, and diarrhea. The virus can lead to more serious illness or even death in 1 out of 150 cases, per the CDC.
  • Reaction from residents: "They attack your ankles and arms," one Las Vegas woman tells KTNV. "I had 15 to 20 bites at one time."
  • Pets: Humans aren't the only ones at risk from the swarms—KTNV notes that a bite from one of the flying pests can cause heartworm in animals like dogs, cats, and ferrets, which in turn can lead to heart failure, lung disease, and even death. There are chewable tablets available for furry friends that can fend off heartworm.
  • Staying safe: Experts are warning residents to shield themselves from the mosquitoes and, hence, West Nile, for which there's no vaccine or treatment. Advice includes getting rid of any containers with standing water around your property, keeping swimming pools clean, and wearing bug spray and protective clothing.
(More mosquitoes stories.)

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