Vector chief knows his way around what bugs us

The new manager of the Jackson County Vector Control District knows a lot about pesky mosquitoes.

"In Baker County, we had a couple of mosquito species that are very similar to the ones found here," observed Jim Lunders of the insects known to carry West Nile virus. "We've also dealt with West Nile virus. We were one of the first counties in the state to find it."

Lunders, 36, is the former manager and biologist for the Baker Valley Vector Control District, a job he held for more than 11 years. He began his new job on Sept. 10, replacing Eugene Papineau, who worked for the local vector control district for nearly 35 years.

Originally hailing from Irrigon in northeastern Oregon, Lunders has a bachelor's degree in biology from Eastern Oregon State University in LaGrande. Before serving in Baker County, he worked in a similar capacity in Louisiana.

In Baker County, the primary mosquito concern was floodwater pasture mosquitoes, he noted.

In Jackson County, in addition to mosquitoes that can carry West Nile, there are treehole mosquitoes known to carry canine heartworm.

The West Nile virus, which originated in Egypt and was first discovered in the United States in 1999, is carried by wild birds. Mosquitoes can then transmit the virus from birds to humans and other animals.

Although the virus causes no more than a flu-like sickness in most healthy people, it can kill elderly people or those with weakened immune systems, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta.

Mosquitoes carrying West Nile virus were discovered last month at a testing site in Talent, the first time it was found in the county this year.

The virus hasn't been found in a human in Jackson County since 2005.

While mosquito season is largely over, Jackson County Vector Control District works to control all animals or insects that transmit disease. That includes everything from flies to rats.

In addition to making house calls to combat pests, the district gives away nontoxic bottle traps or fly strips to catch bothersome bugs. It also offers free control for larger pests such as rats.

"I'm really looking forward to the new opportunity here, and working to protect public health," Lunders said.

In addition to Lunders, the staff includes two other full-time employes and eight seasonal employees during the summer.

Reach reporter Paul Fattig at 541-776-4496 or email him at pfattig@mailtribune.com.

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