Matt Wu–Anecdotal Lead
What do a dartboard, an African mask, and electric bug zapper have in common? They can all be found in the Kitron-Prokopec lab of Emory University.
Located in Emory University’s Math and Science Center, the Kitron-Prokopec lab is one of the nation’s leading environmental science labs and studies emerging diseases and environmental risk factors.
A native of Minnesota, Andrea Lund, has a master’s degree in global epidemiology and is the lab manager of the group. Wearing a vibrant red scarf, sweater, and jeans, you would never guess that her current research involves the transmission of a deadly disease, West Nile Virus (WNV).
Moreover, her work is very important to a certain group of people: the residents of Atlanta.
Prior to her involvement, the old Atlanta sewer system discharged high volumes of sewage and rainwater into creeks whenever it rained. This discharge or combined sewage overflow (CSO) provided the essential nutrients for mosquitoes to rapidly grow and reproduce. It gave rise to high numbers of Culex quinquefasciatus, an urban mosquito and known carrier of the disease.
As rain is a common occurrence in Atlanta, the sewage overflows therefore put the citizens at risk for contracting West Nile Virus. However after Lund and her group treated the sewage discharges, mosquito levels were greatly reduced and people were much less likely to get the disease.
West Nile Virus is a vector-borne disease that is transmitted between birds and mosquitoes, and sometimes humans. Left unchecked, it can lead to encephalitis or swelling of the brain and symptoms such as seizures, stroke, and brain hemorrhages.
Before 1999, West Nile Virus existed only in the temperate and tropical parts of the world.
Fast forward to 2015 and this disease has spread across the entire continental U.S. “No matter what, you’re going to get bitten,” explains Lund regarding when mosquitoes are present.