DIVISION OF PUBLIC HEALTH SERVICES
DEPARTMENT OF PUBLIC SAFETY
Mosquito and Vector Control
Staying Ahead of West Nile Virus Mosquitoes
For more information, contact the:
Hunterdon County Division of Public Health Services
Mosquito and Vector Control Program
Route 12 County Complex, Building #7
PO Box 2900
Flemington, New Jersey 08822-2900
Tadhgh Rainey, Program Coordinator
With the significantly wetter weather this year, the Hunterdon County Department of Health mosquito control team is already at work aggressively treating known hot spots to ensure that West Nile Virus (WNV) nuisance insect populations won't explode. "There is no question that the weather increased the sizes of our mosquito habitats this spring," said Tadhgh Rainey, head of the department's mosquito and black fly control programs.
Nationwide during 2002, more than 4,150 human cases of West Nile Virus (WNV) were confirmed. In New Jersey, 25 residents were identified with acute WNV infection. There were no human cases in Hunterdon County. Statwide surveillance also indicated WNV activity in New Jersey's avian, mosquito and horse populations.
"Currently, we're managing to keep up with the necessary larval control work,"reported John Beckley, director of the Hunterdon County Department of Health. "We're fortunate to have experienced staff that know what to do and how to do it. This enables us to cover more ground and ensure the best results possible."
According to Rainey, it is difficult to predict how insect-borne viruses manifest from year to year, since fluctuating local weather patterns throughout spring and summer can impact the region's mosquito populations. "Since our WNV activity typically peaks during late summer, the mosquitoes present at that time will have a much greater influence on possible viral conditions."
WNV activity in Hunterdon has historically increased rather suddenly toward mid- to late- July. "Although we can have virus activity at this time of the year, the danger period is clearly during the weeks when most people will be enjoying the outdoors," noted Rainey. "Generally, most virus activity subsides by late September. But we do remind people that WNV cases in horses can linger well into late October."
To lower WNV risks and protect the health of Hunterdon residents, Rainey's team actively conducts mosquito abatement work countywide throughout the year. It is an aggressive program aimed specifically at reducing mosquito populations and subsequently reducing the probability of disease transmission to humans and animals. As part of the surveillance and control plan, health department agents traverse the county to sample insects in the varied ecologies found throughout Hunterdon. Currently, mosquitoes are being trapped and tested from over 100 public and private sites in the county including backyards where residents requested local testing be done. "We collect mosquitoes with portable traps and analyze these subjects for WNV," Rainey explained. "This service is available at no charge." For more information about this WNV service, residents should call the health department at 908-788-1351.
There are things individuals can and should do around their homes to help cut WNV risks. "While our mosquito control teams are working to treat the large breeding areas such as floodwater habitats scattered throughout the woodland areas of Hunterdon, residents can pitch in and help in their own way," said Rainey. "By eliminating water collection areas in their own backyards, homeowners can significantly reduce local breeding habitats." Standing water can be found all across Hunterdon in small containers such as wheelbarrows, flower pots, bird baths and rain barrels. (additional information on control around your home)
The county mosquito control team is also ready to help residents who maintain ornamental or farm ponds. "As part of our program, we assist homeowners in addressing mosquito populations in these larger water areas," added Rainey. "For example, in upcoming months, we'll be stocking mosquito-eating fish in ornamental ponds and small bodies of water throughout the county. Residents can receive these fish at no charge by contacting our office." Homeowners who received fish in past will be contacted again this year to see if a restocking is necessary.
What does Rainey's crew do to protect themselves when out in the field? "When we hit the outdoors, we make sure we have our repellent right with us," said Rainey. "We only use products containing DEET. They're the most effective. But be sure to use the repellent according to instructions." (commonly used pesticides)