June brings the long-awaited summer sun, and also the always-dreaded mosquito season.
This week, the state department of health issued a warning to Tennesseans to be cautious of a mosquito-borne disease that could potentially infect residents this year, called chikungunya fever.
East Tennessee is home to several species of virus-carrying mosquitoes. At the University of Tennessee Department of Agriculture, in the Department of Entomology and Plant Pathology, Dr.Dr. Becky Trout Fryxell studies how mosquitoes transmit diseases.
"We're trying to figure out where it's happening, why it's happening, when it's happening -- who's responsible for these different outbreaks," she said.
"The mission of my research and my laboratory is to find ways to manage these pests that actually can transmit different viruses, bacteria -- different pathogens that can cause disease."
Specifically, she's studying the West Nile Virus, La Crosse encephalitis, canine heart worm, and avian malaria. All are transmitted by mosquitoes.
Texas media reported, in the midst of a drought, some mosquitoes have grown bigger and more aggressive -- evolving around their conditions. Trout Fryxell said certain types of mosquitoes will become more or less abundant during a drought situation.
"Many people have found that, in a drought, culex mosquito -- which transmits West Nile Virus, -- actually isn't encountered that often, because the water is not there. However, the virus is still there, so the virus is still able to amplify."
Trout Fryxell said the same mosquitoes that carry the La Cross encephalitis virus also carry the chikungunya fever virus. She says her lab's research with La Cross will provide the first step to learning more about the chikungunya virus if and when it shows up in East Tennessee.
"Mosquito-borne diseases and most vector-borne diseases in general are all preventable," she reminds "These are things that shouldn't be occurring, but are happening. And they're happening locally here in Knox County. What's important is that we control them, and that were aware of them."
The Knox County Health Department tests mosquitoes all summer, looking for the West Nile Virus. It started those tests in May, and so far have not found any positive cases. KCHD shared the following tips for preventing a bite: