North Texas Daily

UNT mosquito trap tests positive for West Nile virus

UNT mosquito trap tests positive for West Nile virus

Hannah Ridings | Senior Staff Photographer

UNT mosquito trap tests positive for West Nile virus
August 27
15:00 2015
[df-subtitle]Denton at risk for the virus[/df-subtitle]

Linda Kessler | Senior Staff Writer

@LindaKessler

A mosquito trap on campus has tested postive for West Nile virus, officials confirmed via email Thursday afternoon. The positive test occurred on Monday, according to the email. It’s the latest report of West Nile virus activity in North Texas.

Denton entered Risk Level 4 of the Mosquito Surveillance and Response plan on August 6 after samples from multiple mosquito traps in various locations tested positive for the West Nile virus.

Health officials in Dallas County confirmed the first West Nile virus death of 2015, raising concerns in North Texas and across the state. But there are tested mechanisms in place to ensure the safety and well-being of residents and students.

In 2012, Dallas-Fort Worth area had the highest West Nile infection rate in the country, according to Denton Environmental Services and Utility Budget Director Kenneth Banks.

There are more than 50 types of mosquitos and UNT has studied all 50 and curated an archive for future students to study. Hannah Ridings | Senior Staff Photographer

UNT has studied all 50 types of mosquitos and curated an archive for future students to study. Hannah Ridings | Senior Staff Photographer

Denton had 36 human cases of West Nile virus infections and one fatality that year.

Student Health and Wellness Center Executive Director Herschel Voorhes said late summer and into September is when mosquito activity can peak.

The Texas Department of State Health Services provides an identification and testing service to deploy two types of traps. There are surveillance traps where mosquitoes are collected, packaged in a box and shipped by ground to Austin where they are tested. Some testing traps are examined locally at UNT.

“The state service is great and has been absolutely crucial in our ability to manage this disease but the local testing has really allowed us to get out, be nimble and assess areas where we are looking at significant West Nile virus presence,” Banks said.

The local side of prevention includes a lot of public education and involvement, Banks said.

“We start promoting preventative measures on all platforms before we even get into mosquito season to make sure our response is at the level it needs to be,” Denton Public Communications Manager Robby Stengel said. “We are using every facet available to us and have, as a part of our mosquito plan, education outreach which involves printed material, the city website, social media and press releases.”

Stengel added that in 2014-15 fiscal year, the Denton city website had a little more than 1.5 million first-time visits, which Stengel said was on target for the city’s strategic plan.

Hannah Ridings | Senior Staff Photographer

Bethany Hambrick, left, uses a small vaccum to harvest mosquitos while Bethany Stuck and Paul Hunninghaus, right, wait to take the mosquitos through the rest of a RAMP test. Hannah Ridings | Senior Staff Photographer

In the National Citizen Survey, conducted May 2015, 90 percent of surveyed residents said they use the Denton city website as their first source of information.

This was increased from 2008, when only 50 percent had used the city website as their number one source of information.

Now, the city is assessing the website in preparation for a redevelopment project.

“We’re trying to reduce customer service calls because, if they have to call to find information or the information is outdated, then the website isn’t serving its purpose,” Stengel said.

Banks said although his department hasn’t conducted formal surveys on the website’s effectiveness on communicating with the public, he knows it has valuable information. The website includes the full Mosquito Surveillance and Response Plan, FAQs, what you can do as a resident and the trap map, which shows every place the city has deployed a mosquito trap.

Hannah Ridings | Senior Staff Photographer

After harvesting the mosquitos from traps, they are put under a microscope to see which is female and which is male. The scientists are only interested in females. Hannah Ridings | Senior Staff Photographer

“From my perspective, the main issue is awareness and realization that the webpage is out there and then the willingness to go and spend a little bit of time,” Banks said.

UNT communications professor Shawn Treat said he feels the website does a good job informing the people of issues, but he wishes they had a community-wide notification system.

“The same way UNT and TWU have a student alert there needs to be some type of citizen alert that sends out a notification, because that’s how a lot of people get their media information,” Treat said.

Banks stressed that it’s up to individuals to prepare for mosquito season with appropriate clothing, effective repellents and avoiding areas with large mosquito concentrations.

“At the end of the day the spread of this disease is very simple, its spread from a bite from a mosquito, so if you can eliminate the bite from a mosquito you will not catch the disease,” he said.

Featured Image: Mosquitos sit under a microscope in a UNT laboratory Wednesday afternoon. Once under the microscope, it is easy for scientists to determine which is male, left, and female, right. Hannah Ridings | Senior Staff Photographer

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North Texas Daily

North Texas Daily

The North Texas Daily is the official student newspaper of the University of North Texas, proudly serving UNT and the Denton community since 1916.

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2 Comments

  1. Professor Bufkins
    Professor Bufkins August 28, 10:11

    I lived in Houston for 20 years and we rarely had West Nile because they do a lot of spraying. That said, I’m genuinely glad UNT is communicating with the campus community and taking protective measures with a natural product called Mosquito Barrier. It’s also comforting to know that because it’s garlic based we are also safe from vampires.

    Seriously, stay safe out there.

    Reply to this comment
  2. Ice Joseph Browne
    Ice Joseph Browne April 27, 09:23

    It ‘s really great to know.Thank you for sharing.

    Reply to this comment

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