July 1, 2020
Communications and Media Relations Coordinator
IN THE NEWS: VSU's Mosquito Surveillance Program Enhances Area Public Health Initiatives
In late June, the South Health District of the Georgia Department of Public Health announced that it had received confirmation of West Nile activity in two groups of Valdosta-Lowndes County mosquitoes tested for the virus, as well as a confirmed case of Eastern Equine Encephalitis in an emu in Lanier County.
The West Nile Virus-infected mosquitoes were discovered through an area Mosquito Surveillance Program that was formed two decades ago by Valdosta State University, the City of Valdosta, Lowndes County, and the South Health District. The program works by providing data on vector and virus activity to local, state, and national health agencies so precautions can be taken to help prevent disease transmission to humans and animals.
VSU student researchers, under the guidance of Dr. Mark Blackmore, a professor in the university’s Department of Biology, collect mosquitoes using traps placed in strategically located, permanent sampling areas throughout Valdosta and Lowndes County. Traps are placed in the afternoons, and the mosquitoes are collected the following morning. This happens several times a week.
After the collected mosquitoes are anesthetized to prevent movement, the student researchers examine them under a microscope and separate them into groups based on type. (Fun Fact: There are 37 species of mosquitoes in the Valdosta-Lowndes County area.) The mosquitoes are then transported to the College of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Georgia where they are tested for mosquito-borne illnesses.
The local Mosquito Surveillance Program is the first program of its type in the region and one of the first in the state. Because the sampling sites never change, Blackmore said his research team is able to compare data from year to year and help guide public health initiatives — including mosquito control efforts — designed to promote health and safety in Valdosta-Lowndes County.
VSU recently invited area news media to step inside the on-campus Mosquito Surveillance Program lab, talk to Blackmore and his student researchers, and learn more about this life-enhancing, and potentially life-saving, work.
• Desire Carver with The Valdosta Daily Times published "Mosquito Trap: Testing Underway at VSU" on June 30.
• Jennifer Morejon with WALB produced "VSU Program Helps Track Mosquitoes, Mosquito-Borne Illnesses" on June 30.
• Amber Spradley with WCTV produced "VSU Students Help Detect Local Health Alert" on July 1.
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