Aug 202003
Authors: Ben Bleckley

Past, current and future research done at CSU may help in preventing and treating the West Nile virus, a disease affecting a reported 262 humans in Colorado so far this year.

Richard Bowen, a professor of biomedical science at CSU has been working with West Nile since early 2000.

“The first cases were in New York (in) late 1999,” Bowen said. “We began work shortly after that.”

At that time he primarily studied horses and the disease’s effects on their bodies.

“Now we’re using data gathered from animals to search for different preventions and treatments,” he said.

Working with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Division of Vector-Borne Infectious Diseases, Bowen is studying the pathogenesis of West Nile virus.

Which is what the virus does once it infects animals, and how, when and at what rate it reproduces. This can help eventually lead to a vaccine or cure, as well as aid public health efforts, Bowen said.

After years of studying West Nile, Bowen is not concerned that a serious threat exists.

“It is something that will be with us forever,” he said. “But some horses are already building immunity to it.”

According to the CDC, Colorado reported the most human cases of West Nile virus in the nation for this year.

Frank Peairs, a professor of entomology, is a CSU mosquito expert. He encourages three precautions to protect someone from mosquito bites and the spread of West Nile virus through September, after which the mosquitoes will likely stop biting humans.

* Apply an insect repellent containing DEET.

* Wear light colored, tightly woven, long-sleeve shirts.

* Limit your outdoor activity in the dusk and evening hours.

“We’re at the peak of risk right now,” warns Peairs. “But as soon as we get a frost, it’s over. Also, early to mid September the adult mosquitoes change their feeding habits and stop feeding on blood.”

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