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LSU entomologist dies in accident

BATON ROUGE, La. — LSU AgCenter mosquito expert Dr. Michael Perich died in a one-vehicle accident Oct. 11 east of Baton Rouge.

Perich, who was known as one of the country's experts on vector-borne diseases, had most recently led a crusade to keep down the effects of West Nile virus and to get many of the Louisiana's parishes to work toward forming mosquito control districts.

The 46-year-old died when his truck left an interstate highway, flipped and landed in rainwater about 3 miles east of Walker. The cause of the accident is still under investigation.

"This is a great loss for the LSU AgCenter, and it's also a big loss for the people of Louisiana," said Bill Richardson, chancellor of the LSU AgCenter. "Mike Perich was a talented entomologist who worked tirelessly to find out more about mosquito-borne diseases and to reduce the effects those had on people."

Perich joined the LSU AgCenter in 2001 after spending more than 16 years as a civilian researcher for the U.S. Department of Defense/U.S. Army. In that capacity, his assignment was protecting troops from the hazards of insects, and his work involved at least 29 major projects in 12 countries.

In Louisiana, Perich quickly became known as a friend to those waging war against mosquitoes. "Mike Perich was the type of man who could be found crawling under a house or wading through a rice field to conduct research on ways to combat mosquitoes," said Bill Brown, vice chancellor of the LSU AgCenter. "He certainly wasn't someone who got stuck in his lab, because he wanted to know what was going on in the field and took a hands-on approach to research."

Colleagues termed Perich a rising star and said he valued working with mosquito control district officials across the state to battle the potentially deadly pests.

"I'm not sure whether he actually ever thought of himself as a 'life saver,' but fellow entomologists and many others who worked with him knew Mike Perich's work certainly had the potential to save lives," said David Boethel, associate vice chancellor of the LSU AgCenter and a fellow entomologist. "There's no question he knew his work was important — and we knew that, too."

Perich and his colleagues and graduate students were in the midst of a variety of research projects around Louisiana concerning ways to control the mosquito population and to reduce the spread of diseases such as West Nile. He also was one of the driving forces in educational campaigns over the past year or so to urge Louisiana citizens to become "Skeeter Busters" and to present the LaMAP (Louisiana Mosquito Abatement Plan) outline that sparked officials across the state to form mosquito abatement districts in many of the 42 parishes where those did not exist.

Perich, who held a bachelor's degree from Iowa State University and master's and doctoral degrees from Oklahoma State University, is survived by his wife, Audrey Perich, and daughter Sara Perich of Baton Rouge.

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