ASU Research Combating West Nile

May 20, 2003
Posted at: 9:49 p.m. CDT

JONESBORO, Ark. -- Arkansas State health department officials are asking Arkansans to help stem the spreading of the West Nile Virus through education.

A program is also under way to track mosquitos in 50 counties and test them for the virus. A group comprised of both students and professors from Arkansas State University are using the St. Francis Sunken Lands for research.

"The mosquitoes carry the virus from bird to bird and then to the people that are at risk for the virus," said Dr. Tom Risch, a biology professor at ASU. "We hope to find the critical linkage of how the virus comes into the state. Does it over winter here, or does it come in with the birds with migration?"

According to Risch, the research group will be able to better determine how the virus spreads by using a certain procedure.

"Catch mosquitoes that have just bitten birds," Risch said. "And then look at the blood they have extracted, and by DNA techniques identify the species of birds and tie it to the mosquito."

While ASU's research on the West Nile Virus is continuing, things are being done to cut down on the mosquito population here in Jonesboro.

"As soon as it gets up above 68 degrees," Derek Hogue with the city's mosquito control group said. "And the weather calms down, we will go out in four to five trucks, five to six days a week."

Hogue says mosquitoes primarily breed in old tire piles that collect standing water.

"We hit the tire piles at least twice a week, every three to five days to make sure that we have a good kill," Hogue said.