December 31, 2002 - Hoosier Times: Thailand RPCV Mike Sinsko fights West Nile virus

Peace Corps Online: Peace Corps News: Headlines: Peace Corps Headlines - 2002: 12 December 2002 Peace Corps Headlines: December 31, 2002 - Hoosier Times: Thailand RPCV Mike Sinsko fights West Nile virus

By Admin1 (admin) on Tuesday, December 31, 2002 - 9:28 pm: Edit Post

Thailand RPCV Mike Sinsko fights West Nile virus





Read and comment on this story from the Hoosier Times on RPCV Mike Sinsko, senior medical entomologist with the Indiana State Department of Health, who spent five years in Southeast Asia during the malaria eradication process - two years with the Peace Corps in Thailand, one year in Vietnam and two years in the Philippines with the Centers for Disease Control.

As far as human cases go, he said that West Nile is a very preventable disease. Because mosquitoes breed in standing water, including birdbaths, old tires, empty containers all which can be found on private property people can reduce risk by eliminating breeding areas, using repellent and wearing proper clothing. Read the story at:


West Nile virus left its mark on Indiana in 2002*

* This link was active on the date it was posted. PCOL is not responsible for broken links which may have changed.



West Nile virus left its mark on Indiana in 2002
By Kristina Wood,
Herald-Times Staff Writer

In June, many Indiana residents started wearing long-sleeve shirts and pants, and not because of chilly weather.

The mosquito-borne West Nile virus was being actively transmitted in the state and across the Midwest, its spread detected initially through dead birds that tested positive for the disease.


Mike Sinsko, senior medical entomologist with the Indiana State Department of Health, was at the forefront of the outbreak.

"It was my primary activity during the summer, essentially tracking what was happening with the virus and alerting the local health departments that it was active in a number of areas," Sinsko said.

In the early hours before dawn, Sinsko and a staff of three full-time entomologists and four intern students would be out doing fieldwork.

"You have to work when the organisms that you happen to be dealing with are active," Sinsko said.

Sinsko and his staff put in 12-hour days, "because you need to put out the mosquito traps just before nightfall and then pick them up before dawn."

In addition to collecting samples, Sinsko's day was spent answering phone calls and giving health departments advice and technical support, helping them conduct controls properly.

Sinsko, who has been with the state health department for 26 years, has an extensive background in mosquito-born diseases both academically and in the field. In his five years in Southeast Asia during the malaria eradication process, Sinsko spent two years with the Peace Corps in Thailand, one year in Vietnam and two years in the Philippines with the Centers for Disease Control.

Sinsko and staff of the state health department added the West Nile virus to their testing scheme in 2000, after they received word from the CDC about the 1999 outbreak in New York. In 2001 they detected the first evidence of West Nile in Indiana, and it also was found in other Midwestern states at the same level.

"We hadn't experienced West Nile at that point. A lot of people were unsure about what steps would need to be taken."

He said that hard economic times led to a resistance to commit finances to the problem at first, but "once we started getting human cases, we started getting reports from towns, cities, counties, setting up controls."

Sinsko said that West-Nile-positive birds, including one found in Bloomington, were an indication that the virus was actively being transmitted in different areas. As more reports came in, the level of disease transmission was rising in the state.


"By the end of summer as far as dead birds go, we found 152 from 88 counties," Sinsko said.

As far as human cases go, he said that West Nile is a very preventable disease. Because mosquitoes breed in standing water, including birdbaths, old tires, empty containers all which can be found on private property people can reduce risk by eliminating breeding areas, using repellent and wearing proper clothing.

"Being informed can really prevent a large number of cases," Sinsko said.

Health departments use a variety of techniques to get the word out to the public, but it can still be a real challenge, he said. "It's a constant effort to try and let people know over and over again about these things."

When the mosquito season ended in November, Sinsko's work turned to analysis, following up late reports, training and preparation for next year.

"There was a lot of virus being transmitted out there, so at the very least we're going to see if it's transmitted again. The one question is at what level," Sinsko said.

"I think with this year's experience, we're going to have a lot of people around the state who are better prepared to handle what may happen next year."

H-T Staff Writer Kristina Wood can be reached at 331-4349 or by e-mail at kwood@heraldt.com.



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