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Climate-based model to predict West Nile virus activity

ITHACA, N.Y. -- Cornell University scientists are launching a full-scale study on the influence of climate on mosquito populations that transmit diseases such as West Nile virus (WNV) to humans. Funded by a $495,000 Global Programs grant from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the three-year project is a collaborative effort involving medical entomologists, climatologists, social scientists and risk analysts, as well as local and state health department officials.

"We propose to develop a system for predicting and monitoring risk of mosquito vectors, West Nile virus transmission and human health risk that will be readily usable by public health professionals for decision-making," says Laura Harrington, Cornell assistant professor of entomology and the project's principal investigator. "This system will provide a mechanism for early warning of West Nile virus risk and serve as a model for other existing and future vector-borne disease risks for which vectors are already present in the United States. These risks include Rift Valley fever, Japanese encephalitis and Ross River viruses."

Arthur T. DeGaetano, Cornell associate professor of climatology and director of the Northeast Regional Climate Center, is a co-principal investigator.

To develop, refine and validate the system, researchers will focus their efforts on New York state, with the view to making the system adaptable to any region. Harrington and DeGaetano hypothesize that a few key climate factors influence and drive WNV transmission dynamics and these key factors can be modeled to accurately predict the risk of WNV transmission to people.

Harrington and Renee R. Anderson, a Cornell Cooperative Extension associate in Cornell's Department of Entomology, will determine the effects of temperature on development of key West Nile mosquito vectors in the laboratory and under realistic field conditions. DeGaetano will develop a forecasting model based on climate to predi
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Contact: Contact: Franklin Crawford
fac10@cornell.edu
607-255-9737
Cornell University News Service
13-Jul-2004


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