UNT Health Science Center, Fort Worth Work to Fight West Nile Virus

City, university continue partnership

So far, so good in Tarrant County when it comes to the West Nile virus.

Tarrant County Public Health said since April 1 none of the 721 mosquito pools tested have been positive for the potentially deadly virus.

In the fight against West Nile virus, the setup of a mosquito trap is a daily occurrence across Fort Worth.

There are 50 locations across the city that are regularly trapped by Dr. Joon Lee, with the University of North Texas Health Science Center, and his students.

They collect mosquitoes almost every day, a lot of them.

"Last year's mosquito average per net is about 35," Lee said.

That's average, but the net from the Fort Worth Nature Center and Refuge this week is well above average.

"About, over 1,000 mosquitoes," Lee estimates.

That's rare, but this time of year is when mosquito numbers typically start to rise, but so far no West Nile virus.

This year, the city gave over all collection duties to UNTHSC and still relies on public health for a lot of the testing work done.

NBC 5 got a look inside the UNTHSC lab on Wednesday, where mosquito traps arrive to be sorted and turned into mosquito pool samples.

Each week they generate 65 mosquito pool samples. Of those, 20 stay at UNTHSC for testing, the remaining 45 go to the county for testing.

The partnership between the city and the university is undoubtedly unique, as it's the only one that's known of it's kind.

"When we partner with them, it saves our citizens dollars," said Mayor Betsy Price, who toured the lab on Wednesday. "They've got the knowledge and the expertise."

While the city frees up staff, Lee gets data that might lead to something everyone fighting West Nile virus wants, a guide.

"The West Nile virus prevention model," Lee said.

It will take four or five years of collecting data and mosquitoes to develop such a prediction model. In the meantime, they will continue to gather samples for science and citizens.

In addition to saving the city money, officials said by working with the Health Science Center, they have a quicker response to areas that may have positive West Nile virus mosquitoes.

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