SDSU Working to Predict West Nile Virus Cases

BROOKINGS, S.D. – According to the Centers for Disease Control, South Dakota has one of the highest rates of West Nile virus in the United States. But thanks in part to South Dakota State University, many counties across South Dakota are able to do more to fight the disease.

This year, South Dakota is at a high risk for the virus. We know thanks to a model used by the South Dakota Department of Health that can predict how many cases of human West Nile virus there are going to be in a year.

“Our last predictions said there would be 123 total cases for 2018 and the last report we got from the Department of Health said they had already observed 124,” said Justin Davis with the Geospatial Science Center of Excellence at SDSU.

They can predict that there will be 10 to 20 more cases by the end of the year.

Back in 20o1, SDSU partnered with the state Department of Health to study mosquitos and the West Nile virus. Starting in 2016, this research is now used to create the models. It also monitors individual counties for their own risk predictions on a weekly basis. About half of South Dakota’s counties have taken part in the study.

The info is also helping counties know when and where it’s most important to control the mosquito population.

I hope that it helps South Dakota prevent human cases in the future because if you know that this is a bad year for West Nile virus if you know there’s going to be a lot of cases you can spray more than usual or if you know that this is going to be a low year maybe you can spend money on another public health issue,” said Davis.

In order to have accurate predictions, mosquitos must be collected, sorted by species, and tested to see if they are carrying the virus. So far, more than 5,000,000 mosquitos have been collected.

The prediction models appear to be working, giving South Dakotans the information they need to protect themselves from a tiny insect that poses a big threat.

Researchers say the highest number of cases are usually found in Minnehaha, Lincoln, Brown, and Pennington Counties. But they say the West Nile virus can show up anywhere and is something every county should keep an eye on.

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