Baylor, County Health District Join Hands In Mosquito Surveillance

July 1, 2004

by Judy Long

Torrential rains in recent weeks have spurred a mosquito population explosion, but McLennan County health officials and Baylor University biologists are monitoring the problem. Baylor and the county health district officially entered an agreement to cooperate in collecting mosquitoes from across the county to test for West Nile virus.

David Litke, environmental health supervisor at the Waco-McLennan County Public Health District, first contacted Baylor mosquito expert Richard Duhrkopf two years ago to discuss the mosquito population and West Nile virus in the county.

Litke and Duhrkopf, associate professor of biology, worked informally last summer to provide better and more accurate surveillance information to the state. The results were so impressive that Texas Health and Human Services requested a formal agreement, and Litke and Duhrkopf drafted a plan which was signed June 29.

The state provides the mosquito traps, and Baylor graduate and undergraduate biology students under Duhrkopf's supervision collect mosquitoes twice a day. Once collected, they send the insects to Austin to be tested for West Nile virus.

The results give a detailed profile of mosquito populations in the county, and if West Nile does reach McLennan County, health officials will know exactly where the infected mosquitoes are breeding. Duhrkopf said the agreement is good for everyone.

"It's an extremely valuable experience for the students because it teaches them what's involved in mosquito control and in research methods. It's valuable for the health district because they don't have to hire someone to collect the mosquitoes, and it's valuable for Baylor because it gives us a chance to give something back to the community," he said.

For more information, contact Duhrkopf at 710-6786 or by e-mail at Richard_Duhrkopf.

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