This summer, a collaborative effort led by Dr. Joon-Hak Lee, PhD, Assistant Professor of Environmental and Occupational Health, UNTHSC School of Public Health and the city of Fort Worth, will focus on surveillance and prevention of the West Nile virus (WNV).
This is the third summer that Dr. Lee and his team of graduate students will be collecting and testing mosquitoes from more than 63 local sites at residential areas and parks throughout Fort Worth; with a focus on key spots such as the Fort Worth Botanic Garden, Fort Worth Zoo and the Fort Worth Nature Center and Refuge.
Throughout the summer, the collection and testing will involve using a fermented-grass and yeast bait to set mosquito traps each Monday, as well as, collecting mosquitoes on Tuesdays, performing lab tests and analysis on Wednesdays and Thursdays, and presenting results and recommendations to city officials on Fridays.
In a University press release about the prevention and surveillance efforts, Dr. Lee said, “The high amount of recent North Texas rains has created saturated soil, and when the moisture content goes up, there is a greater chance for the mosquito population to grow. Our temperatures have not been very high yet, which has helped so far, but this could also mean mosquitoes are surviving longer as they conserve energy for the hotter weather to come.”
Unlike the last two years, Dr. Lee and his team will also be monitoring mosquitoes for the chikungunya virus, an emerging virus that is spread from person to person through mosquitoes like WNV.
Dr. Lee and his team offer these tips to protect yourself and your family during WNV season:
- Avoid being outdoors for extended periods of time between 8 p.m. and 2 a.m., when mosquito activity is highest.
- Cover arms and legs while outside and spray DEET insect repellant on shirts and clothing before you head outdoors.
- Eliminate standing water in areas within yards and neighborhoods.
- For added protection of children, spray insect repellant on your own hands first and then rub products onto children’s skin and/or clothing.
- Be aware that mosquitoes thrive in lush, leafy, high-vegetation areas, even those that are well maintained. Trees, flowers, watered lawns and backyards all can attract mosquitoes.
- Keep lighting to a minimum if outside at night, to avoid attracting mosquitoes.
- Citronella candles are safe to use but not always effective in preventing mosquito bites.
- The elderly and those with weakened immune systems should use caution, as they can be particularly susceptible to WNV.
The Mission of the School of Public Health is to create solutions for a healthier community by advancing public health knowledge through research, service, and the education of public health professionals.
From the beginning, the UNTHSC School of Public Health sought to provide critically needed public health education and research to the citizens of North Texas. Indeed, interest in developing program in Public Health in Fort Worth sprang from the efforts of community leaders and public health officials who saw the need for a strong link between academic health care and community practitioners in this region of the State. The hard work of these community leaders and university officials culminated in July 1995 when the Texas Higher Education Coordinating board approved the institution’s request to offer a Master’s of Public Health Degree (M.P.H.) in collaboration with the University of North Texas in Denton . After several years of offering this degree, the Board of Regents authorized the University of North Texas Health Science Center to submit a proposal to the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board to create a School of Public Health and to request funds from the Texas Legislature to fund the school and its corresponding programs.