PHOENIX — Not much buzzing going on at the Maricopa County Vector Control office right now. It’s there where surveillance nets from across the Valley are gathered and sifted through to find mosquitoes.
Wintertime temperatures keep the mosquito population low, but they’re still out there, making operations year round in in Maricopa County, according to John Townsend, the Vector Control Division Manager for the County.
"Lot of mosquitoes that you see right now are still the Culex mosquitoes, the kind of the West Nile bad mosquitoes, but they're breeding down in street drains, places that are kind of protected," Townsend said.
Those bad mosquitoes were out in full force last year. In fact, 2019 had the highest number of human cases of West Nile Virus in more than a decade with 155 reported cases, according to Maricopa County Public Health.
There were also 16 deaths, making it the deadliest year for West Nile in the Valley since the virus arrived in 2003.
Why was last year so bad? The weather played a role.
"We had a really mild kind of spring and early summer. We weren't even hitting triple digits until probably like mid-June," Townsend said.
The mild spring allowed another potential carrier of the virus, birds, to thrive in Phoenix.
Will 2020 be just as bad as last year? It’s too soon to say, Townsend states.
"We're just going to kind of have to keep an eye on it and see what our bird population looks like in April or May and that'll kind of give us an idea of what we're in for," he said.