MorganCountyHealthDept.: Sanitarian on first career West Nile-positive test

By Benjamin Cox on August 2, 2018 at 6:45am

A positive West Nile Virus mosquito test was performed two weeks ago in Morgan County.

On Wednesday July 18th, the Morgan County Health Department ran a routine test on a gathering of trapped mosquitoes located in Jacksonville. On Thursday the 19th, the Health Dept. announced that the test was officially confirmed as West Nile positive.

Public Health Director for the Morgan County Health Department Dale Bainter told WLDS/WEAI news recently that, in light of this positive West Nile test, the Health Dept. will completely focus all west-nile efforts for this year to prevention of human cases, including use of larvicide county-wide to reduce mosquito populations.

Cameron Morford is Sanitarian of the Morgan County Health Department and tested the July 18th mosquito sample. Morford says this is his first West Nile positive test as a health professional.

“I was surprised. I’ve probably ran 200 tests in the last several years and had been only seeing them come back negative.”

Morford says this is his first job right out of college.

“I have a Biological Chemistry degree from Culver-Stockton College in Canton, MO. I got this job roughly a week after I graduated. I’ve been here for three years, since June of 2015.”

Morford explains the process of trapping the mosquitoes.

“There is a small, battery-powered fan placed above a tub of rancid smelling water. Female mosquitoes tend to want to lay their eggs in rancid-smelling water. I examine the container to determine how many were caught and seal the container, which is stored in a freezer for a short period of time. Then, I distinctly remove the females because of their statistical propriety to being more communicative hosts of West Nile and create a soupy mixture by using small copper [Cu] spheres in a buffer solution with the females in an agitating machine.”

Morford explains the testing process after the sample has been prepared for anaylsis.

“It’s called a Ramp Reader and there are special test kits provided for it. There is a cartridge used for the ground-up mosquito sample which can be placed in a small well. West Nile antibodies will bind to the antigen in the buffer solution if there is a positive sample. I have never seen a West Nile test come back with more than a score of 10 parts, with the minimum threshold currently recorded in state code as 30 parts. The test performed July 18th came back at 640 parts, which is as high as the reader went.”

Morford attributes the guaranteed status of the positive West Nile test to new technology.

“In previous years, all I had was – I think it was called Vector Test Kit. I did the first part the same, but all I had was a litmus-paper-esque slip that I dipped in the sample. There was one line that stood as a control; if another appeared, that was supposed to indicate a positive West Nile test. I would certainly attribute the fact that this test so accurately confirmed the identity of West Nile Virus in Morgan County in 2018.”

Cameron Morford is both Sanitarian and Emergency Health Preparedness Coordinator for the Morgan County Health Department. Call 217-245-5111 for the health department; Environmental Health extension is 4. You can find more information on adhering to the three R’s to prevent mosquitoes at