Pennsylvania's West Nile Virus surveillance system gets an assist from NASA data

Recently, NASA has contributed weather and climate data to assist Pennsylvania state agencies in their response to the incidence of West Nile Virus throughout the Keystone state.

Multiple state agencies in Pennsylvania are working with NASA, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and Prevention, and other federal agencies in an environmental and public health alliance that is focusing on responding to the progress of West Nile Virus as it spreads through counties. The PA West Nile Virus Surveillance System (PAWNVSS) provides up-to-date information on where infected mosquitoes, birds and humans have been reported throughout the state.

Over the last two years, the Pennsylvania Departments of Environmental Protection (PA DEP), Health (PA DOH), and Agriculture (PDA) built a geographic information system (GIS) with the assistance of Environmental Systems Research Institute (ESRI) software and support, and NASA weather and climate data. The GIS mapping system became a model for collecting data from the field, laboratory and remote sensing images. Those data were combined and used to create a map of the state, with county designations that can indicate which counties West Nile Virus has been reported in.

The PAWNVSS system was established so that counties could respond with increased mosquito surveillance and control, pesticide spraying and public notifications whenever the virus was found within their borders.

The Pennsylvania DOH collects dead birds; the DEP collects mosquitoes and decides where to spray. "Surveillance data collected from across the state is entered into the web-based database and is used to guide the agencies in making decisions on issuing public health alerts and mosquito control activities," said Eric Conrad of the PA DEP.

The PAWNVSS supports data acquisition, laboratory forensics, decision making/response and communications. Decision makers have tools to view and analyze data from various different sources

Contact: Rob Gutro
NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center

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