Caption: L-R, Mosquito expert Leslie Vosshall and Tracy Smith
Mosquitoes are as much a part of summer as watermelon and sunburns. While 2012 has been a very good year for the insects, it has the potential to be a bad one for humans, CBS SUNDAY MORNING correspondent Tracy Smith reports in a cover story that looks at what’s being done to combat the problem.
A warm winter in the Northeast created an ideal situation – as some have predicted – for a mosquito explosion. Now Smith investigates wide-ranging methods scientists are using to learn more about the insects and how to stop them.
“What’s interesting is that the really dangerous, disease-causing mosquitoes have acquired a taste for humans,” says Leslie Vosshall, who runs Rockefeller University’s Laboratory of Neurogenetics and Behavior.
For the segment, Smith travels to southwest Florida to fly with the Lee County Mosquito Control. The organization spends more than $20 million a year to stop mosquito-borne diseases before they start and has a fleet of helicopters that spray for mosquito larvae wherever there’s standing water. “It’s very much like a military operation in that you have a target,” Lee County Mosquito Control official Shelley Redovan tells Smith. “We have a whole series of weapons that we use against them. The difference is we don’t ever expect to win or eradicate these insects.” Only female mosquitoes bite, Smith reports, because they need the blood to make eggs.
As Smith reports, although the chance of dying from a mosquito bites in the United States is relatively small, it does happen. Smith interviews Massachusetts mother Kimberly King, whose five-year-old daughter died after being bitten by a mosquito carrying the rare Eastern Equine Encephalitis virus. King’s daughter said she didn’t feel well. Within 24 hours, she suffered seizures.
“We had to make the decision to take her off life support,” King tells Smith. “And we took her off life support – she was in my arms – I was holdin’ her as she died. They took her off all of her machines and her hoses in my arms, and they allowed me to help wash her up before they sent her down to the morgue.”
The full segment will air July 1 on CBS SUNDAY MORNING WITH CHARLES OSGOOD (9:00-10:30 AM, ET) on the CBS Television Network. Rand Morrison is the Executive Producer.
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