Avoiding West Nile Disease: The Time of Day Really Matters!

The Wireless Bug-Sensor team at the University of California, Riverside (2012 first place Wireless Innovation Project  Winners) have made an interesting offshoot finding   related to the insect sensors they have developed with  funding from the Vodafone Americas Foundation.  This year’s West Nile virus season in North America is predicted to be particularly bad, with 3,124 cases and 134 deaths reported as of Sept 18, 2012.  There is a plethora of unproven methods to combat West Nile disease: rubbing yourself in Vicks VapoRub, keeping a fabric softener sheet in your pocket, or avoiding (or eating lots of) bananas.

Daily activity plots for two mosquito species that transmit West Nile virusIt has been long advocated by health agencies and mothers alike: stay indoors at dawn and dusk.  Now, the findings from the Wireless Bug-Sensor team at The University of California, Riverside affirm this through a more validated method  Although this method has already been recognized, the data that the team at UC Riverside has collected finally quantifies the beneficial results in a tangible manner.

Dr. Eamonn Keogh, leader of the Bug-Sensor team, notes “We are taking insect observation to a level not seen before. Using sensors to detect insect flight, we have monitored several mosquito species that carry West Nile for their entire lifespan, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year.”

The location of each mosquito every second is converted into a data point that is transmitted to a central computer. In less than a year, the team has accumulated tens of millions of data points and is adding millions per month. In contrast, most past studies have been based on merely dozens of data points.

The UCR team has concluded that if you are outdoors an hour before sunset and an hour after sunset, the likelihood of a mosquito bite is 200 times greater than if you were outdoors during lunchtime.  The Wireless Bug-Sensors, which were developed to assist farmers with insect intervention, can now also play an important role in improving people’s health.  For more detailed information, please visit http://www.cs.ucr.edu/~eamonn/CE/WestNile.