State and federal health officials will again monitor for signs of deadly mosquito-borne viruses that typically appear in the years following major floods.
Health officials are urging Douglas County residents to remove old tires and other refuse that can collect standing water.
The water becomes an ideal summer breeding habitat for mosquitoes that carry deadly encephalitis viruses, which typically strike humans in the years following floods.
Beginning next month the Kansas Department of Health and Environment will be monitoring for signs of encephalitis in Douglas County and five other counties that were heavily flooded in 1993.
Although a similar monitoring program last summer did not detect any mosquitoes carrying encephalitis, state health officials believe the risk is greater this year.
Encephalitis outbreaks in humans typically follow floods by one to three years, and the disease also seems to boom about every 19 years.
The last major outbreak in the Midwest was in 1975, two years after flooding in the Mississippi River and Ohio River valleys. In that outbreak, 1,815 people contracted the disease and 125 died.
"The probability of there being an encephalitis outbreak has increased this year," said Phyllis Siefker, a spokeswoman for the Kansas Department of Health and Environment.
In most years mosquitoes spread the viruses that cause St. Louis and Western Equine encephalitis primarily in birds.
The last reported human cases of encephalitis in Kansas were in 1988.
Beginning next month entomologists from Kansas State University will place mosquito traps at sites in Doniphan, Jefferson, Johnson, Riley and Shawnee counties, and at six locations in Douglas County.
Monitoring for mosquitoes carrying the disease will continue throughout the summer until the first autumn frost.
The state health department is also emphasizing prevention: Get rid of old tires and other backyard items that collect water, where mosquitoes breed.
"It's a matter of looking around and taking care of your environment and making sure you don't have mounds of tires that could affect hundreds of peoples' health," Siefker said.