- Associated Press - Friday, February 12, 2016

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) - North Carolina lacks the ability to track and combat the spread of mosquitoes as concerns about the Zika virus spread, the state’s chief epidemiologist says.

Megan Davies told WRAL-TV in Raleigh (http://bit.ly/1TVCD7b) that mosquito surveillance and control is very limited, and she told the Joint Legislative Emergency Management Oversight Committee on Thursday that funding for local mosquito control is no longer available.

Two different programs aimed at controlling mosquitoes and other pests were pared back, and then finally eliminated, under Democratic Gov. Bev Perdue and Republican Gov. Pat McCrory.

In 2010, Perdue and the Democratic majority in the General Assembly made the first cut to grants that helped local governments control mosquitoes. In 2011, a Republican-controlled General Assembly voted to eliminate the “vector control program,” which monitored and analyzed the spread of mosquitoes as part of what is now the Department of Environmental Quality. The last of the mosquito control grants for local governments were eliminated in 2014.

“This is something that I want to discuss further,” said Rep. John Faircloth, the committee’s chairman. “We just can’t ignore it. The potential for something bad is there.”

Faircloth said there may have been valid reasons to eliminate the funding, but, he said, “we ought to at least take a look at it.”

While the legislature currently is not in session, oversight committees like Faircloth’s make recommendations for actions lawmakers will take when they return on April 25.

Faircloth also said diseases other than Zika are of concern as well and may provide even more of a reason to invest in mosquito management.

Davies said there’s a potential for mosquitoes with Zika to crop up in North Carolina this summer, although it’s unclear how widespread or severe any outbreak might be.

The Zika virus has been blamed for brain-damaged babies in Brazil. The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says no local mosquito-borne Zika virus cases have been reported in the U.S., but there have been travel-associated cases.

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Information from: WRAL-TV, http://www.wral.com

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