LSU AgCenter Fights Mosquito Bites

Linda Benedict  |  6/14/2005 7:27:10 PM

A group of LSU AgCenter entomologists, extension agents and other faculty members are working intently on projects that could help communities across the state reduce the risks of mosquito-borne diseases this summer.

The work is part of a cooperative effort between the AgCenter and the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals. Its basic goal is to establish mosquito abatement districts in Louisiana parishes that don’t have them – particularly those parishes hit by West Nile virus outbreaks last summer.

“A lot of people are concerned about mosquito abatement now because of the West Nile virus situation,” said David Boethel, associate vice chancellor who oversees mosquito research and educational efforts.

“There are some parishes in the state that have had mosquito abatement programs since the 1960s, but there are a lot of other parishes that don’t have them,” Boethel said. “DHH has asked us to develop a model for a comprehensive plan for mosquito abatement.”

The plan is an outline being developed so parish officials can adapt it to their individual situations when trying to establish mosquito abatement districts. It addresses such issues as mosquito surveillance, controlling mosquito populations, estimated costs for an abatement program, different methods of funding such programs and public education and outreach.

Officials say parish leaders need a starting point, and that’s why DHH is funding the development of the plan – through a contract with the LSU AgCenter.

The latest cooperative ventures between DHH and the LSU AgCenter began this past summer, when DHH funded two AgCenter educational programs on avoiding mosquito-borne diseases and an effort that involved AgCenter faculty and field agents in monitoring of mosquitoes in some parishes.

The monitoring was conducted in 11 Louisiana parishes that didn’t have mosquito abatement programs but had been hit by West Nile cases.

Now AgCenter faculty will focus intently on working specifically with officials in those 11 parishes – Allen, Bossier, East Feliciana, Iberville, Livingston, St. Helena, St. Landry, Tangipahoa, Tensas, Washington and West Baton Rouge – concerning potential formation of mosquito abatement projects.

“The template we are developing certainly is going to take into account some of the things we learned from the monitoring program last summer,” said Michael Perich, a medical entomologist and the AgCenter’s principal expert on mosquitoes.

Perich said experts used three different types of traps and monitored 10 different locations in the 11 parishes involved in the program this summer. The result was the species identification of more than 150,000 captured mosquitoes during the two-month period monitoring was conducted.

“We found 43 out of the 68 species of mosquitoes known to live in Louisiana,” Perich said. “Of those, we also identified nine different genera – basically all that are found in the state.”

Although the AgCenter’s efforts will focus on those 11 parishes, others also will be involved in regional meetings to talk about plans and in efforts conducted by DHH and other partners.

Writer: Tom Merrill

(This article appeared in the winter 2003 issue of Louisiana Agriculture.)

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