Transylvania County, located in the western part of the state, has historically had the highest incidence rate of La Crosse encephalitis. This disease predominately impacts children and members of the local community have suffered the effects of this disease for decades. Neill Cagle is a Registered Environmental Health Specialist in the Transylvania County Health Department and is truly a “one man army” in the fight against this virus. For more than a decade, Neill has had an interest in vector control and, even before his health department had a microscope for mosquito identification, he attended mosquito ID courses taught by Dr. Bruce Harrison and Parker Whitt. When additional AA908 funds were made available in 2017, Neill methodically and immediately worked hard to help build an education, surveillance, and control program. He actively sought professional development, including attending many NCMVCA meetings, Dodd Courses, and a Vector Summit in Florida. He outfitted a small laboratory in his health department and initiated a surveillance program once funded. He collaborated with other public health team members to improve educational outreach and develop an ArcGIS mapping and analytics platform for the county. He actively collaborates with NCMVCA members including submitting samples for insecticide resistance testing, container-Aedes surveillance for Zika, and other initiatives.
He has recently earned his public health pesticide applicator’s license and then working with NCMVCA members and industry experts began outfitting his program preparing for La Crosse virus response and control. He enthusiastically adheres to principles of integrated mosquito management and is a “fight the bite” and vector-borne disease prevention and education ambassador for the county. It is worth noting that Neill has balanced all this work with his other responsibilities as an environmental health specialist. He is a dedicated, kind, dependable, and compassionate individual. He is truly the consummate and classic public health professional, working quietly behind the scene to get the work done. He is a clear asset for Transylvania County, public health, and our profession. He hopes to “pay it forward” and be a resource for other local health department. As he recently said when giving a presentation about his work, “I want to do a good job for our county and make a difference out there”. Neill Cagle now joins a cadre of “the best of the best” as a recipient of the William F. Strickhouser award.