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Published: Friday, 11/7/2003

Spraying to kill mosquitoes hits a record level

Lucas County s mosquito warriors poured on the insecticide this year in their annual assault on mosquitoes, spraying a record amount of chemical.

Workers with the Toledo Area Sanitary District, which is responsible for mosquito control in the county, sprayed 4,698 gallons of chemical. That s more than triple the amount sprayed 10 years ago, and the district likely will spray even more in the future.

“I don t see us getting away from that increasing trend,” said Lee Mitchell, the biologist for the district.

Mr. Mitchell spoke yesterday during the district s annual advisory board meeting. He acknowledged that some people are wary of so much spraying, and even he hopes less spraying can be done. But he said public concern over West Nile virus likely will mean continued spraying for the foreseeable future.

For example, this year also was a record in terms of the number of requests [8,503] from citizens asking district officials to spray in their area.

Some communities, including a Cleveland suburb, have banned mosquito spraying out of concern about the possible impact on human health. The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Environmental Protection Agency say, when properly used, mosquito insecticides are generally safe.

Mr. Mitchell said district workers are well-trained and, in fact, help teach others the proper use of insecticides.

Lucas County has had one of the strongest mosquito spraying and control programs in Ohio for decades, according to state officials. The local program started in 1946 and is funded by property taxes. The owner of a $100,000 home pays $9.95 annually in taxes to fund the district.

This year, the district expects to spend about $2.2 million on mosquito control, including about $300,000 for insecticide and larvicide. Next year s expenditures are expected to be about the same, according to John Heiniger, district general manager.

Spraying for mosquitoes has always been part of the program s mission, although for most of its history district workers sprayed more to reduce “pest” mosquitoes that weren t necessarily harmful but more of a nuisance to homeowners.

In 1999, the sudden emergence of West Nile virus in the United States, and in Ohio in 2001, meant an even greater emphasis on mosquito control by district workers. Last year, the virus hit hard in Michigan and Ohio. Michigan had the second-highest number of cases in the country, and Ohio was third.

This year the virus effect shifted westward, with Colorado the hardest-hit state.

Ohio has reported just 103 cases this year and four deaths, compared to 403 cases and 31 deaths last year. In Michigan, the drop has been even more dramatic, from 614 cases and 51 deaths last year to eight cases and one death this year.

State experts warn that the virus most likely will always be around and theorize that this year s drop is mostly due to the summer s heavy rains washing out prime mosquito-breeding habitats. While wet weather is generally good for mosquito breeding, the species of mosquitoes that transmits West Nile thrives in drier weather.



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