Auburn University Scientists Study West Nile Virus Outbreaks

30 cases of West Nile Virus in Georgia so far this year. Just last week, someone else died from the virus in Georgia.

Auburn University scientists have made the connection between birds and West Nile Virus outbreaks.

They explain the work they are doing in Georgia and surrounding states to fight the disease.

Auburn’s Dr B. Graeme Lockaby said birds and where they live are crucial factors in the rapid spread of West Nile Virus.

“A lot of this has to do with climate cycles and so where we see West Nile tends to be when we have a wet Winter followed by a dry Spring and other factors like bird population called corvidae like crows and blue jays when those populations are up you have that perfect storm on risk factors assembling so that seems to be happening right now,” said Dr.B Graeme Lockaby, Auburn University Associate Dean of Research within Auburn’s School of Forestry and Wildlife Sciences.

The study shows crows, bluejays, and ravens are hosts for West Nile. Infected birds carry the disease to new areas. Mosquito bites bird, then mosquito bites person.

“If we can find more species than just bluejays and crows that means mosquitoes have other birds to go to and they don’t need to be affected and keep transmitting the virus around the city,” said Nicole Castaneda, Graduate Student studying West Nile in Atlanta, GA.

Castaneda is working with the Atlanta Audubon Society.

Their idea, to increase parks and green space so birds hang out there instead of going into the city.

They believe this can decrease the risk of West Nile in cities.

“If we can prevent those outbreaks then we can decrease those death tolls,” said Castaneda.

They also worry recent hurricanes produced stagnant water and sewer overflow, a soup for breeding which mosquitoes love.

The two year study will identify areas of highest risk for West Nile.

That information could be used to warn people most at risk when another outbreak hits.

 

 

 

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