UC Merced to study West Nile virus

yamaro@mercedsunstar.comNovember 13, 2012 

The Merced County Mosquito Abatement District and the University of California at Merced are collaborating to better target the West Nile virus, which left one person dead in Merced County this year.

The district awarded a $10,000 grant to UC Merced through the Mosquito Research Foundation, said Allan Inman, manager of the district.

"The ultimate goal is to increase our efficiency in controlling the West Nile virus," he said.

Inman will work with UC Merced research scientist and entomologist Andrea Joyce to investigate two mosquito species that transmit the virus: Culex pipiens and Culex quinquefasciatus and their hybrids.

There will be several steps involved in the work, Inman said.

They will sample mosquito populations in different habitats across Merced County, including natural wetlands and near rivers, agricultural fields dairies, and rural and suburban housing, according to UC Merced officials.

They will then examine whether some habitats harbor more hybrids than others and whether the virus has been more prevalent in those areas, UC Merced officials explained.

The research will help district abatement staff target the treatment for the virus and reduce the public risk, Inman said. The district will provide the traps, structures and mosquitoes, while Joyce and undergraduate students will do the testing, he said.

In the past, the district supported research at UC Davis, Inman said, but with UC Merced so close to home, the district hopes to develop a working relationship with the school.

"This is just the beginning," he said.

Joyce wasn't available for an interview by deadline.

This year, the county had 13 human West Nile virus cases, one equine case, 44 positive birds and four positive mosquito pools.

But the risk of becoming infected this season is pretty much over, Inman said.

"We are doing preventive work for next year's season," he said.

Reporter Yesenia Amaro can be reached at (209) 385-2482 or yamaro@mercedsunstar.com.

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