Mosquito Surveillance Begins in Pittsfield
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — The 2014 season for mosquito surveillance and control has officially started in Pittsfield
“There are many questions and concerns when it comes to surveying and controlling the mosquito population,"
Mayor Daniel Bianchi said. "It is important that residents have an understanding of what this service entails, the purpose of spraying mosquitos and the steps to take when spraying is occurring in their area.”
Rather than spraying general areas, the Berkshire County Mosquito Control Program keeps continual watch on the mosquito population in Berkshire County. By monitoring the larvae and adult mosquito population, BCMCP is able to confirm the presence of two mosquito borne viruses, West Nile Virus (WNV) and Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE). Once a virus is detected, spraying will begin in that targeted area.
The presences of these viruses have been confirmed in past summers, which is why the BCMCP continues to be crucial part of Pittsfield, and Berkshire County.
“It is important that we start early and continually monitor the mosquito larvae and adult mosquitos throughout the spring and summer," Bianchi said. "This monitoring helps to reduce the amount of spraying that is done in Pittsfield.”
Once the a viruses is detected among a mosquito population, an automated mapping system, ARC Geographic Information System Technology, helps personnel to better assess the infected area. The information generated from this tool helps BCMCP measure, identify, and record surveillance and plan treatment strategies.
“After detection, the use of the CodeRED system is key, in that the people residing in the targeted area will get a phone call alerting them about the detected virus and the plan in place to address the mosquitos,” Bianchi said.
Scheduled spraying is done after dusk when mosquitoes are most active and people are inside. The product used in the truck mounted spray application breaks down quickly and does not leave a toxic residue. The US EPA has evaluated the products for their safety in mosquito control and determined that they do not pose an unreasonable risk to birds or mammals and it is not used where fish or bees could be exposed.
Gina Armstrong, the director of health, said West Nile Virus illness can range from a mild fever to more serious disease like encephalitis or meningitis.
"Symptoms may also include body aches, nausea, vomiting, swollen lymph glands, skin rash and headache," she said. "People over age 50 have higher risk of developing one of these severe mosquito borne illnesses that can last several weeks. Although rare, a EEE illness can cause death or permanent disability. Everyone can reduce the chances of becoming ill from the bite of an infected mosquito by covering their skin and applying repellant as directed.”
Armstrong added that the decision to spray in Pittsfield is based upon a phased response to surveillance data and an elevated risk of virus exposure.
"Spraying requires Board of Health approval and will generally occur on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday evenings," she said. "When the Board of Health approves a spray, residents will be given two to three days’ notice in advance of any spraying. There will be a news release and a CodeRED notification.”
To sign up for CodeRED Emergency Notification System go to www.cityofpittsfield.org and you will find it on the right hand side of the screen.