There’s no overstating the role local governments play — or should play — in protecting citizens from mosquito-borne illnesses: They provide the first line of defense.
All communities need mosquito control programs
It’s National Mosquito Control Awareness Week, and it’s a good time to remind local officials of the need to be vigilant in protecting citizens amid continuing concern over the potential spread of Zika virus as well as other mosquito-borne illnesses.
It’s important for local officials to have mosquito control plans in place. No, every jurisdiction won’t be able to afford to provide the highest level of service, but they all can and should have some level of program. In areas where funding is a challenge, the key is to focus on public education and eliminating water-filled containers where mosquitoes breed.
While larger, more costly programs tend to have the elements in place to effectively combat mosquitoes, smaller programs also can do a credible job of protecting their citizens.
That was on display at the April 19 South Carolina Zika Forum where DHEC and its partners convened state and local officials to discuss Zika virus and resources available to local governments in recognition of their role as the front-line defense against the spread of any mosquito-borne viruses. Two very different yet effective mosquito control programs made presentations — a large one operated by Beaufort County and a smaller one operated by the city of Hartsville.
Different communities, same mosquito-prevention mission
In some ways, Beaufort County and Hartsville couldn’t be more different. Beaufort is an affluent, sizeable coastal county that covers nearly 600 square miles and is home to 180,000 residents. Hartsville is a small town in the Pee Dee with a population of roughly 7,900.
While they are of a different size, scope and region, the two communities have something in common when it comes to mosquito control. Both are being proactive in developing and implementing mosquito control programs that focus on citizen education, community outreach, mosquito surveillance, habitat elimination and integrating use of Environmental Protection Agency-regulated insecticides where appropriate. Both have developed Zika response plans.
Beaufort County’s program has a staff commensurate to meeting the needs of a large county that includes four municipalities as well. Beaufort is more aggressive about spraying to control mosquitoes. Its certified personnel employ state-of-the-art ground and aerial application equipment. The aircraft includes a plan — an OV-10 D Bronco — and a helicopter – an MD-500 D. In addition, it has seven spray trucks. The county also has a Mosquito Control Mobile Reporting App that allows citizens and visitors to report mosquito problems as well as dead birds for testing of possible West Nile Virus infections.
See Beaufort County’s mosquito control presentation from the SC Zika Forum.
Hartsville’s program, which is significantly smaller, focuses on controlling with mosquitoes within the city. The program is just a few years old and all the duties of mosquito control are handled by a two-man crew.
Hartsville puts heavy emphasis on education, outreach and source reduction. It also emphasizes that for mosquito control to be effective, the program must communicate with all city departments, including codes enforcement, utilities and environmental services.
While Hartsville doesn’t have a large, well-funded program, its staff is resourceful. For example, they instituted a bike program to conduct larviciding — the process of using biological agents to kill larvae — around storm drains and open ditches. Mounting bikes not only gets the job done, but it draws attention from the public and emphasizes the need for mosquito control.
See Hartsville’s mosquito control presentation from the SC Zika Forum.
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