ASU Research Students Looking For West Nile Virus

August 10, 2004 -- Posted at 11:25 a.m. CDT

MISSISSIPPI COUNTY -- The West Nile Virus has been found in Arkansas and is a very real threat right here in Region 8.  A group of research students from Arkansas State University are working in the wild to find out more about the mosquito-born disease.

For some students at ASU, Tuesday was an early start.

"I'm studying bird biology so I'm getting out in the field and learning the species of the area," said Graduate Student Jane Anfinson.

Anfinson is part of a research team studying the West Nile Virus in birds.  Her team is currently at the Big Lake National Wildlife refuge near Manila.

"We're checking birds for West Nile Virus by catching them in nets, and then we do blood samples from the birds. Then those blood samples go back to a lab at Arkansas State and they're checked for the virus there," said Anfinson.

Not only is this study hands on experience for graduate and undergraduate students at ASU, but it also helps test for the West Nile Virus right here in Region 8. Researchers use invisible nets to catch the birds to test them for the disease.  Once the birds are caught, the team measures, weighs and determines the sex, species and age of the bird.  They then place a small tracking band on the bird before taking a blood sample.

"We don't know the status of the virus within Arkansas so it's to find out some information about the virus," said Biologist Jennifer Norris. 

Anfinson said, "Our lab at ASU has processed over three hundred blood samples from the birds and preliminarily they are all negative results."

And so far, so good. The study runs until the middle of October.  Mosquitoes are also being gathered and tested for West Nile as part of the study.