Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Let's Talk About Zika

Summer is here. It’s time for backyard bar-b-ques, baseball, and outdoor activities. The last thing you want at any of those events is a hoard of blood sucking creatures. I’m not talking about the zombies of AMC’s hit Walking Dead TV show – I’m talking about mosquitoes.

Mosquitoes are more than just a passing nuisance. Mosquitoes are a disease vector, meaning that a bite from a mosquito infected with certain viruses can spread disease among a community. Zika, West Nile, and Chikungunya are all diseases that have been in the news lately that can be transmitted by a bite from an infected mosquito.

I hesitated to write this column because I didn’t want to contribute to panic regarding mosquitoes, and the simple fact is that the chances of contracting a mosquito born disease are very small. You’ve got a better chance of being in a car wreck or getting hit by lightning than getting a mosquito born disease.

However, it is very important that we take steps to control the mosquito population so that the risk of disease transmission remains low, and that’s where the Department of Public Works steps in. Each summer, the Department of Public Works uses a special truck to spray neighborhoods and streets with a chemical to control mosquitos. The chemical has to come into contact with the mosquito in order to kill the insect, so spraying is done in the early evening when mosquitos are most active.

Mosquito spraying is actually the least effective way of controlling a mosquito population. The most effective way is to control the areas where mosquitos breed so that there are no new mosquitos. Mosquitoes need small bodies of water to breed and anything that can hold water around your house could be breeding ground for mosquitoes. An empty flower pot with rainwater in it, a child’s toy that catches the water, gutters that are not cleaned out, an old tarp, an old tire, the cover on a swimming pool, a kiddie pool left out in the yard over the winter – all of these can trap or hold water and all of them can be a breeding ground for mosquitoes.

Scientists tell us that mosquitoes are old home bodies – they don’t travel very far from where they were born. If you have a mosquito problem at your home, then the chances are very good that somewhere on your property or on your neighbor’s property there is a breeding ground for mosquitoes.

Take some time early this summer to look and see if you might be the person in your neighborhood that is allowing mosquitoes to breed on your property. Please clean your gutters and throw out old containers or tip them over so the water doesn’t collect inside of them. Keep the pool cover clean and dry and store those kiddie pools on their sides so that the water runs out of them.

Because of heightened concern in our state over mosquito born illnesses, like Zika, our Code Enforcement and public works personnel will take extra steps this year to address the mosquito issue. They will be enforcing codes related to property cleanliness and investigating mosquito complaints to locate the breeding sites and work with homeowners or businesses to address those sites. The City will do its part, and we hope that you will do yours, so that together we can keep those little flying blood suckers under control and have a safe an d enjoyable summer.