West Nile still a threat, experts say

Some sounds will always be associated with late summer – sounds like the hum of lawn mowers in the distance, crickets chirping from the grass or the high pitched whine of mosquitoes hovering nearby.

 

In the past decade, some of those mosquitoes have begun carrying West Nile Virus. Every year, the Franklin County Board of Health tests mosquitoes, and every year some test positive. 

This year, the board of health began finding positive mosquitoes in July, including one in Reynoldsburg last month.  

West Nile is a dreaded disease, but Mitzi Kline, director of communication for the Franklin County Board of Health, said people shouldn’t panic about the discovery of positive mosquitoes. 

"It is common," she said. "You’re always going to have mosquitoes and you’re always going to have disease carrying mosquitoes." 

Just because a mosquito carries the virus doesn’t mean it will spread it to humans, she said.  

According to the Board of Health, fewer than 1 percent of people who are bitten by an infected mosquito will become severely ill. 

The Board of Health recommends that people wear insect repellent containing DEET (being careful to follow package directions), limit their time outside at dusk and dawn, and get rid of all standing water around their homes.

The Board of Health also takes steps to get rid of as many mosquitoes as possible. It has a contract with Vector Disease Control, Inc. to control mosquito populations in many of the communities around Columbus.

Adam Hlad, the Franklin County Contract Supervisor for VDC, said the company tests the mosquitoes for West Nile, treats water to kill mosquito larvae and sprays for the adults.

 

Hlad said the company has been working since April to eliminate the little pests.  The majority of the time, he said, is spent treating water for larvae, the most efficient way to get rid of mosquitoes.

"If you find a bird bath that’s breeding heavily, you can dump it out, refill it and you’ve just killed every mosquito in there," he said. 

To kill the larvae, he said, they use a mild bacteria that kills them, but has a very mild impact on non-target species.  They also use a hormone that disrupts the mosquito’s life cycle.

Two of the area communities, Bexley and Reynoldsburg, use Vector Disease Control. Pickerington has its own program, as does Jefferson Township, which includes Blacklick. 

Ellen Walker, township administrator for Jefferson Township, said the township has a crew that treats for larvae, but the township doesn’t spray for adults. 

According to Ed Drobina, service manager for the city of Pickerington’s service department, the city sprays for adults twice a week. 

Human cases of West Nile are rare in Franklin County and the surrounding counties. According to the U.S. Geological Survey, in 2005 there were two cases in Franklin, one in Licking, and one in Pickaway, the county south of Franklin.

In 2006, there was one case in Franklin and none reported in the surrounding counties. In 2007, there were no reported cases. 

This year, there had been only one reported case in the entire state of Ohio as of Aug. 19, in the northern Ohio county of Ottawa. 

More information about West Nile can be found on the Web site of the Franklin County Board of Health at www.franklincountyohio.gov/board_of_health/mosquito.htm.

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