Illnesses from mosquito bites have tripled in the United States since 2004, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Northern Arizona University evolutionary biologist Crystal Hepp is on the front lines of fighting mosquito-borne pathogens in the region. She recently received a New Investigator Award grant—$75,000 per year for three years—from the Arizona Biomedical Research Centre (ABRC), a unit of the Arizona Department of Health Services, for a project to investigate the circulation and source locations of West Nile virus in the state.
West Nile virus is the most common mosquito-borne disease in Arizona. Although only 20 percent of people infected with the virus experience symptoms similar to those of the flu, one in 150 infected people develops a serious, sometimes fatal, illness such as encephalitis and meningitis. In 2017, West Nile virus caused six deaths in Arizona.