The war on mosquitoes may have to be fought on the homefront, Effingham County residents learned Tuesday night.
The county does not have a mosquito control division, and the cost of having one is viewed as exorbitant. But residents wanted to know what could be done to curtail the mosquito population and West Nile virus.
“We have had concerns about the influx of mosquitoes,” said Deborah Smith. “There seem to be a lot more.”
According to Centers for Disease Control statistics, there had been 22 cases of West Nile virus reported in the state as of Tuesday, with three deaths. Across the nation, there have been 48 states with reported cases of West Nile virus, with a total of 1,993 cases, leading to 87 deaths.
The number of cases is the most the CDC has recorded since it began keeping track. According to the CDC, approximately 80 percent of people who are infected will not show any symptoms. About one in 150 people infected with West Nile virus will develop severe illnesses.
West Nile is most often spread by a mosquito that feeds on an infected bird. That mosquito transfers the virus when it bites a human or another animal.
Smith, who lives in a low-lying area off Highway 30, asked commissioners what could be done to combat the mosquitoes.
She asked if the county could subcontract with a neighboring county that does have mosquito control.
“We are really concerned we don’t have a sprayer here,” Smith said.
Chatham County Mosquito Control presented an offer to commissioners nine years ago for services. Their two-pronged approach included providing surveillance and control, education and bird collection at a cost of more than $250,000. The second option entailed ground and aerial surveillance and aerial spraying.
Aerial spraying was favored of trucks outfitted with sprayers because of the amount of territory needed to be covered. But that came with a price tag of more than $1.6 million.
“I’m afraid it’s going to be a problem not just for this season but next season,” Smith said. “I don’t want to wait until we lose a child or an elderly person (to West Nile).”
County Administrator David Crawley said the county could hold a public forum on mosquito control and what citizens can do to reduce the threat of West Nile and other mosquito-borne diseases.
Preventing West Nile virus
• When outdoors, use inspect repellant containing an EPA-registered active ingredient.
• Many mosquitoes are most active at dawn and dusk. Wear long sleeves and pants at those times or consider staying indoors.
• Make sure you have good screens on your windows and doors to keep mosquitoes out.
• Get rid of mosquito-breeding sites by emptying standing water from flower pots, buckets and barrels. Change the water in pet dishes and replace the water in bird baths weekly. Drill holes in tire swings so water drains out. Keep children’s wading pools empty and on their sides when they aren’t being used.