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Report: Tick numbers likely down this year, mosquitoes up in the air

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Warmer temperatures in the forecast already have the Metropolitan Mosquito Control District thinking about spring and summer – and the pests that will come with it, KSTP reports.

The district issued its annual report Thursday, which explained how 2013 was an unusual year for mosquito activity because of last year's odd weather patterns.

"The 2013 season was characterized by an extremely late spring with heavy snowfall into May," the report says. "This was followed by a wet early summer but ended with a hot and dry August and September. These conditions resulted in a major mosquito population peak in mid-July."

Despite the late start of the season, the agency says West Nile virus activity "remained strong" with 79 human cases recorded.

The Minnesota Department of Health has detailed facts about the disease, and tips to prevent it.

The Star Tribune said 103 cases of West Nile were confirmed in 2012, the second-worst year behind 2007 when 116 cases were confirmed. The paper said the virus – which is most common in open agriculture areas in western and central Minnesota – arrived in Minnesota in 1999.

According to the MMCD, most West Nile infections are mild, and symptoms include fever, headache and body aches. Occasionally the symptoms include a skin rash and swollen lymph glands, the agency says.

Symptoms of more severe West Nile infections include headache, high fever, neck stiffness, stupor, disorientation, tremors, convulsions, muscle weakness, paralysis and coma, the MMCD says. According to the agency, 10-15 percent of severe cases can result in death.

Since winter still has to play out in terms of snow, the MMCD didn't appear to make a formal projection in its 112-page report on how many mosquitoes will hatch this season, or when. The state has 51 known mosquito species in all, the report says.

Mike McLean of the MMCD tells KSTP that the late snow a year ago appears to bode well for this coming summer in terms of ticks.

"Since they have a two-year life cycle, that depression in their numbers will carry over into this year, we're thinking," McLean tells the station.

He did add, however, that those projections could change.

"Every year we have to plan for a normal year. But the problem is, no year is ever normal," McLean says.

Despite the prevalence of pests in Minnesota during mosquito and tick season, no cities in the state made the Huffington Post's "10 Buggiest Cities in the U.S." list in 2012.

The No. 1 city was Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater, Florida, followed by New Orleans-Metairie-Kenner, Louisiana.

Other cities in the top 10 included Miami-Fort Lauderdale-Pompano Beach, Florida (No. 5), Birmingham-Hoover, Alabama (No. 7) and Richmond, Virginia (No. 10).

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