Bogucki tracks mosquitoes to assess West Nile threat

Public Health; Students

Amy Bogucki, MPH candidate ’16, spent much of the summer mapping the locations of mosquitoes that had been caught by the St. Louis County Department of Public Health, looking for West Nile virus. The department relies on such mapping to control the impact of the virus in St. Louis.

“I thought it was really interesting,” says Bogucki, who worked with Communicable Disease Control and Services as her practicum, in partnership with Vector Control. “People still associate West Nile virus with far away places.”

In fact, she said, it turns up in a surprising number of mosquitoes in the St. Louis region, although not in numbers large enough to pose a serious threat. The virus can cause head and body aches, is especially threatening to the elderly, and can be fatal.

Bogucki’s mapping helped the county decide where it was most important to spray to keep down the mosquito population, a task that otherwise relies on drive-arounds and phone calls from area residents.

She hopes to continue her specialization in epidemiology and biostatistics after graduation with a job as a data analyst in academia, government agencies or an NGO, jobs for which her practicum helped her prepare.

Wherever she lands, she’ll be taking a generous supply of insect repellent. “All it takes is that one mosquito,” she says, citing her summer experience. “It makes you think about it more.”