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Research May Predict West Nile Virus Trends

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(credit: KTVT/KTXA) Jennifer Lindgren
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TARRANT COUNTY (CBSDFW.COM) - The City of Fort Worth is teaming up with UNT’s Health Science Center to research West Nile Virus in the local mosquito population.

For the second summer, dozens of live mosquito traps are set up at sites around the city, collecting anywhere from a few – to thousands of mosquitoes per trap each week.

The portion of the mosquito population with West Nile will peak in the next three to four weeks, researchers say.

North Texas was hit hard by West Nile Virus in the summer of 2012, followed by a comparatively calm 2013.

Dr. Joon Lee and his team of researchers at UNTHSC are trapping the pests, and conducting DNA testing on the specimens, to get a better understanding of where West Nile is trending in Fort Worth.

“We don’t have a good model for West Nile Virus prediction. We’re trying to make one. It probably needs about another four to five years of data,” said Dr. Lee.

Lee is a leader in the field of medical entomology, having coordinated the mosquito-carrying virus tracking programs for Iowa, Alabama and the Tennessee Valley Authority. He also trained county health departments for the New York State Health Department.

Dr. Lee says the drought can lead to the evolution of bigger, stronger mosquitoes, which endure the conditions by living longer and flying farther, and biting more aggressively.

“Timing is very important,” Dr. Lee says, of why the research to develop predictors for WNV is crucial.

Fort Worth’s Director of Code Enforcement says through the partnership with UNTHSC, the city is receiving weekly reports on the mosquito population.

“So that we can get ahead of this. Instead of waiting for a positive sample, we want to get to the point where we can tell people, you’re in a high area, where there’s a high probability and you need to get on this right now,” said Brandon Bennett.

(©2014 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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