Rabies Virus Animal Testing
Rabies Virus testing ranges anywhere from 150 to 350 animal samples per year, depending on the activity of animals throughout the year. Samples tested are from a variety of sources, including vaccinated and unvaccinated animals from human exposures and non-human exposures. All samples which test positive for the Rabies Virus are shipped to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to verify the circulating strains in North Dakota. In addition to the regular samples received, the North Dakota Department of Health Laboratory also processes approximately 100 surveillance only samples collected through hunting and trapping for the North Dakota Game and Fish Department.
Mosquito Surveillance Program
The mosquito surveillance program operates each summer from Memorial Day to Labor Day, typically spanning 14 weeks. Two methods of mosquito surveillance are used. The first method utilizes New Jersey traps, in which mosquitos are collected on a weekly basis and are then counted and speciated. The mosquito surveillance team is looking for specific mosquitos known to spread diseases. The data collected from the New Jersey mosquito trapping network are commonly used in small towns throughout North Dakota to assist with decisions on whether to spray or larvicide for mosquito control. The second method of surveillance also includes the collection of live mosquitos which are counted and then tested in the laboratory for diseases known to infect humans.
In conjunction with the mosquito surveillance program is the dead bird surveillance program. From Memorial Day to Labor Day, vector control personnel will submit samples from dead birds found throughout out the state. As birds are the main food source for mosquitos, mosquito-borne illnesses have been seen to show up among dead birds before human illness is detected.
The laboratory performs polymerase chain reaction (PCR) testing which amplifies the DNA of the following seven viruses: West Nile Virus, La Crosse Virus, Eastern Equine Encephalitis, Western Equine Encephalitis, Jamestown Canyon Virus, St. Louis Encephalitis, and Zika Virus.
Tick Surveillance Program
There are two types of ticks commonly found in North Dakota, both of which are known to transmit diseases: Dermacentor variabilis (American Dog Tick) and Ixodes scapularis (Deer Tick). Ticks become active in the spring and continue being active throughout the fall. During these months, veterinarians and zoos throughout the state submit ticks that have been found on animals. The ticks are speciated and tested in the laboratory through polymerase chain reaction (PCR) which amplifies the DNA of the following bacteria and viruses: Anaplasma phagocytophilum, Borrelia burgdorferi (Lyme Disease), Babesia microti, Ehrlichia, Powassan, Rickettsia rickettsii (Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever), and Francisella tularensis (tularemia).