Amid COVID-19, South Dakota goes virtual for a conference on West Nile Virus and mosquitoes

Capitol News Bureau

PIERRE, S.D. (KELO) — The 2021 mosquito-control and West Nile Virus conference for South Dakota will be free and held via Zoom teleconference.

Pre-registration is necessary for the October 20 event that starts at 1:30 p.m. CT. It is scheduled to wrap up at 4:15 p.m. Registrations will be accepted until noon CT October 20.

Among the presentations are a discussion of West Nile Virus in South Dakota, a 2021 climate review and 2022 outlook by state climatologist Laura Edwards, a briefing on mosquitoes and insecticide resistance by Adam Varenhorst from SDSU Extension, and a discussion of applicator recertification by Valerie Mitchell from the state Department of Agriculture and Natural Resources.

South Dakota’s first human case of WNV was reported back in 2001, according to the state Department of Health, and more than 2,600 cases have been identified since then, resulting in 47 deaths.

There have been 50 cases and one fatality in South Dakota so far this year, according to a statewide tracking system. She was a 42-year-old resident of Union County.

The conference was held in-person for many years, such as at Aberdeen in 2019, but the COVID-19 pandemic changed that. No conference was held in 2020. South Dakota’s death toll from the COVID-19 pandemic the past two years was at 2,182 as of information released Thursday.

Much of South Dakota suffered from drought conditions for most of the summer, helping hold down populations of mosquitoes

Among those organizing the conference this year are Amanda Bachmann, pesticide education and urban entomology field specialist for South Dakota State University Extension, and Anita Bharadwaja, vectorborne epidemiologist for the South Dakota Department of Health.

The department annually makes $500,000 available to counties, municipalities and tribal governments for mosquito control.

A 2017 report found South Dakota males had been “disproportionately” affected by West Nile. Wrote author Lon Kightlinger, “Over the past 15 years, human WNV infection has caused extensive disease and death in South Dakota and is likely to threaten the public’s health into the future.”

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