Berkshire Mosquito Control Ramping Up For 2018 Season
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — As winter turns into spring — eventually — the Berkshire County Mosquito Control Project renews its efforts to prevent the spreading of diseases.
Superintendent Christopher Horton said the organization has begun testing mosquito breeding grounds looking for larvae and have already found some. Within the next two weeks, those sites will be treated with larvicide to reduce the number of mosquitoes that take to the air as the weather warms.
"We want to know when West Nile virus is occurring in the environment," Horton said, later adding that "We also identified eastern equine encephalitis in Berkshire County."
The two diseases are carried by birds, a mosquito bites an infected bird, carrying to disease, and then infects the next. That spreads the disease and ultimately, mosquitoes will bite humans or domestic animals, spreading the disease there.
The mosquito control project looks to slow that spread to help prevent humans from being infected. It starts with the identification of breeding grounds and staff will use targeted larvacide applications to reduce the number of mosquitoes in the environment. Throughout the summer, the staff looks for potential sources of breeding grounds, such as clogged catch basins, and reduces those areas.
The project sets traps to collect samples of the mosquitoes and sends them for testing. Should the samples return with positive tests of either virus, the project will launch an adulticide spray to kill the adult mosquitoes in that area.
Last year, there were 149 larval treatments in the wetlands, 3,407 catch basins were treated, and 122 pools of samples were sent for testing. Of those, 10 samples returned a positive with West Nile virus.
"It was a very busy year for West Nile virus in Berkshire County. It was our busier year since we start surveillance in 2012," Horton said.
But, there were no signs that the disease had spread to humans in 2017 and Pittsfield had fewer positives than in past years. Countywide there were 30 isolations of West Nile virus with a peak coming in late August and early September.
"The problem was getting bigger throughout the season. Each isolation we provide a recommendation to the local Board of Health for spray intervention to kill the adult mosquitoes in the area," Horton said.
In Pittsfield, two adulticides, truck-mounted, sprayings were issued. He said overall it seems the work he has done in Pittsfield has been paying off.
"I think we have a good system in place because we are on the proactive side of things," Horton said. "In general I think we've improved conditions in the neighborhoods in a lot of the city."
However, not everyone in Pittsfield agrees with the project. A few years ago a group of citizens advocated for the city to halt the operations, saying the chemicals were hazardous to human health and the environment. Further, they said there were more effective ways to combat mosquitoes.
The Board of Health, however, has kept support for the project, saying there is not enough evidence to support those claims while at the same time, West Nile and EEE are both well documented.
The state has a process allowing residents to opt out of having their properties sprayed. The Health Department is urging residents who don't want the spraying to opt out through that as early as possible.
In other business, Steve Smith was voted to take over the chairmanship of the Board of Health. Alan Kulberg was voted to serve as vice chairman.
Tags: mosquito spraying, West Nile,
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