Students on the Prowl For West Nile Culprits

Nov 15th, 2007 | By | Category: 19-2: Our Story, Our Way, Tribal College News

MOSQUITO BUSTING. Fort Belknap College student interns collect mosquitoes for West Nile Virus testing.

A student intern at Fort Belknap College (FBC, Harlem, MT) collected the first mosquitoes that tested positive for the West Nile Virus in the state of Montana in 2003. Since then FBC’s student interns have been actively involved in the mosquito surveillance program for the state.

Each year from June until September, interns use carbon dioxide traps to collect mosquitoes one day a week, which are shipped to Montana State University at Bozeman for sorting and identification. The culex tarsalis (bird-feeding mosquito that carries the virus) are then sent on to the public health laboratory in Helena, MT, for viral detection using polymerase chain reaction (PCR) technology.

The information is then collated by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for reporting on the status of the West Nile Virus in the United States. This is a collaborative effort that involves Fort Belknap College and collection sites in various counties throughout the state.

The current student interns, Pete Stiffarm and Maxbiya Yat Gan, were responsible for the trapping and were involved in larvalciding (killing larva) on the reservation in an attempt to suppress the emergence of adult mosquitoes. This activity involved identification of the mosquito life history and applying the larvalcide at the appropriate time into the dead water of areas in and around the Milk River and into ponds on the reservation.

The students use GPS technology and are currently making maps of areas treated or affected by West Nile mosquitoes. The students conducted hands-on research while also learning to care for the health and land of their community.

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