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Biology student Phil Scheibel, a senior from Astoria, IL, examines mosquito samples in the WIU laboratory.
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WIU graduate student Michele Rehbein, of Darien, IL, works on samples in the WIU lab.
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WIU Professor, Students Help with West Nile Research

October 8, 2014

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MACOMB, IL – A Western Illinois University biology professor and her students are working with several western Illinois health departments to conduct West Nile Virus (WNV) research on regional mosquitoes.

Assistant Professor Catherine Miller-Hunt and her students began working with the McDonough, Fulton and Cass County health departments in May. Through the collaborative project students trapped and tested mosquitoes for WNV.

McDonough County Health Department Environmental Health Director Chris Adams, a 2006 WIU alumnus with a bachelor's degree in community health, said students monitored two of the agency's four traps in the west and south part of the county. Students pulled the traps for collection of mosquitos and tested them for WNV.

"This work allows us to have earlier detection of West Nile Virus, because we see it in mosquitoes before it shows up in birds," Adams said. "For the students, this gives them real field experience and helps out our department because we are spending less time in the field."

Miller-Hunt said WNC is a "major threat to public health, particularly in very old and very young individuals."

"The virus is spread to humans through mosquito bites, and symptoms generally include a fever, headache, body aches, joint pains, vomiting, diarrhea or rash," said Miller-Hunt. Most people who are infected with the virus recover fully and may not even know they were infected with WNV. However, a small percentage of infected individuals may go on to develop more serious, neurological symptoms. So far this year, two people have died in Illinois as a result of WNB."

Miller-Hunt added that so far this year, students in her laboratory have identified positive WNV mosquito samples in Fulton and McDonough counties. Regional sampling concluded Oct. 1. The mosquitoes that tested positive in McDonough County were collected Aug. 21 and Sept. 9.

"This project was very successful and will be repeated again next summer with the health departments," said Miller-Hunt.

For more information about WNV, visit

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