Special Project Targets West Nile Virus

University of Wyoming Extension boosts West Nile carrier identification efforts with a special project helping local personnel identify the disease.

Published on: Jun 4, 2012

Twenty-five Wyoming residents from towns and weed and pest control districts throughout the state have learned correct larvae sampling dipping etiquette and how to identify the West Nile virus carrier Culex tarsalis during the annual training last month at the University of Wyoming's Laramie campus.

Participants also learned larval and adult control techniques for the carrier. Four West Nile virus cases reported in the state in 2010, and one in 2011 has the state concerned and on the alert.

Despite reduced media attention to the disease of late, the public should keep aware of the threat, says Scott Schell, assistant Extension entomologist and one of the instructors.

DISEASE HUNTER: Meghan Blair of Wyomings Teton County Weed and Pest Control District learns to identify the carrier of West Nile virus.
DISEASE HUNTER: Meghan Blair of Wyoming's Teton County Weed and Pest Control District learns to identify the carrier of West Nile virus.

"A case of West Nile virus that turns into a serious neuroinvasive form can be as debilitating to a person's health as a stroke," he says

Extension Entomologist Alex Latchininsky (cq), Laramie mosquito crew supervisor Keith Wardlaw and Tom Janousek of Pest Consulting Services of Omaha also led the course.

The second annual training session was at capacity with 25 students, determined by the size of the entomology teaching lab in UW's College of Agriculture and Natural Resources.

Dipping suggestions read like hunting and fishing strategies. The practitioner moves slowly when approaching water where larvae may be present. Footstep vibrations or disturbed vegetation, even a person's shadow on the water may cause larva to dive to the bottom.

The collector must dip quickly but only on the surface to collect larva, which frighten easily and try to avoid the dipping tool.

The carrier of West Nile virus "doesn't depend on river floodwater habitats," explains Schell. "They do very well in a year like this."

They can be found in storm sewers where populations build through the summer, he says.

Identification of the prime mosquito vector of West Nile virus and its habitat directs limited control resources where they will do the most good, he adds. "Having well-trained mosquito abatement personnel is also valuable just in case more virulent insect-vectored diseases are ever accidently or intentionally brought into the country."