City resumes mosquitoe eradication program

By Thomas Wilson
STAR STAFF
twilson@starhq.com

   After a one-year hiatus, the city of Elizabethton resumes its mosquito eradication program this season with tentative plans to create a part-time position that will handle the program.
   Mike Potter of the city's engineering department had conducted a mosquito control program for six years until 2003 when the Elizabethton City Council opted not to fund the program. In past budget years, the council authorized amounts less than $10,000 for mosquito allocation in designated areas around the city.
   "We are going to make it city position," said Public Works Director Ted Leger Tuesday. Leger said that his department planned to create a part-time position to conduct the mosquito eradication program next year.
   Leger said the position was tricky to classify because it required a full-time effort for only part of the calendar year.
   The mosquito eradication program applies EPA-approved pesticides at designated points around the city where mosquitoes are most prevalent. Potter said the program usually begins in March and can extend into October depending on weather conditions. Mosquitoes typically congregate near areas of standing water and dense vegetation.
    "If the city wanted to undertake a citywide program it would take more than one person to handle that job," said Potter who recently reacquired his state accreditation to use pesticides in the mosquito eradication program.
   In order to spray pesticides for mosquito control, Potter had to be re-certified with the Tennessee Department of Agriculture. The city's interruption of the program did not generate a greater number of complaints from Elizabethton residents according to Potter.
   "We had about the same amount of complaints from the previous years when we were doing it," he said.
   The specter of West Nile virus (WNV) returns each summer as one of several mosquito-borne viruses in the United States that can infect people. Infection rates for the virus soared across Tennessee in 2002, but declined last year. The virus ranks as a category one, highest-level of diseases requiring immediate notification to a county's health officials when first detected.
   The Tennessee Department of Health (TDH) identified 56 people testing positive for the virus in 2002. The department also reported 141 horses and 823 birds found in the state tested positive for WNV.
   Infection rates dropped considerably in 2003 with only 26 human cases reported in Tennessee. One person from Carter County was infected with the WNV last year. TDH also found the county had two horses and three birds infected with WNV in 2003. Bird infections fell to 275 while the number of horses infected with WNV dropped to 103 last year according to the TDH.
   The virus emerged in the 1990s in temperate regions of Europe and North America and was introduced into New York City in 1999. The virus moved westward and was documented in 46 states. The virus exists in nature primarily through a transmission cycle involving certain species of mosquitoes and birds. Mosquitoes become infected with WNV when they feed on WNV infected birds.
   Since mosquito larva require stagnant water for development, the presence of mosquitoes can be curtailed by eliminating unwanted containers (tires, trash) or turn containers over as to not collect water in items such as wheelbarrows and kiddie pools.