Wayne L. Kramer | 12/20/2005 4:20:59 AM
Research on West Nile virus has moved back to the front burner at the LSU AgCenter with the recent arrival of Dr. Wayne Kramer from Nebraska.
Kramer, an entomologist and mosquito expert, most recently led the West Nile surveillance effort in the Nebraska Department of Health.
The virus that has spread across a large part of the United States over the past few years is carried by different mosquito species in different parts of the country, Kramer said.
"In Louisiana, West Nile is carried mostly by urban mosquitoes during a long season, but of course it occurs throughout the state," he said. "In Nebraska, it’s more of a rural disease."
Kramer said researchers across the country are learning more about mosquito ecology and control, and he sees his work as supporting mosquito abatement districts in Louisiana.
"I have a long relationship with mosquito control workers," Kramer said, citing his 20 years of work in Nebraska.
Kramer explained that West Nile virus infections will go in cycles. The cycle starts with rather large outbreaks of the disease. As people build up immunity over time, the occurrence of the disease will diminish. Then, when a new generation of people without immunity is born, the cycle will start over again.
The entomologist said many people will develop immunity by having been exposed to the disease but never displaying any symptoms. Others may have mild, flu-like symptoms, while still others may require hospitalization.
"People with a milder case of the disease may never be diagnosed," Kramer said. "We see a whole gradation of responses in the human population. The vast majority of people develop antibodies and never know they’ve been exposed."
As a horse owner, Kramer is sensitive to horse health issues, as well as troubles with the disease in other animals. For example, one current area of study is the economic impact of West Nile virus in alligators.
"West Nile virus is here to stay," Kramer said. "It’s something we have to learn to live with."