- The Washington Times - Sunday, May 29, 2005

Area health officials are getting an early start on spreading insecticides and telling residents how to protect themselves against mosquitoes carrying such diseases as West Nile virus as the peak breeding season fast approaches.

D.C. Department of Health officials are targeting such fertile breeding grounds as public ponds and catch basins by applying organic larvicide.

“We began about mid-May in Ward 7 and Ward 8, mainly targeting the catch basins,” said Maria Hille, who manages the animal-disease prevention program for the health department’s Bureau of Community Hygiene.

She said the department will continue its weekly surveillance of mosquito traps and distribute educational fliers while crews apply insecticide in eight-block sections as the weather gets warmer and residents file complaints.

“Mosquito season usually is from about June to September, depending on the weather,” Miss Hille said. “But we’re being proactive because the compound can last in the water for up to 30 days.”

There was one confirmed human case of West Nile virus in the District last year, compared with three in 2003 and 31 in 2002. No cases have been reported so far this year.

The Virginia Department of Health is setting a variety of mosquito traps to determine which species are prevalent in different neighborhoods and to get a better idea of which species are most likely to carry the potentially deadly West Nile virus, said Lucy Caldwell, spokeswoman for the department’s Northern Virginia branch.

“It has been a wet spring, and it’s going to get warmer soon,” she said. “Over the past two years, this is the time of year that people can [first] expect to see mosquitoes.”

Virginia had five human cases of the West Nile virus last year, including the death of an elderly man in the Mount Vernon section of Fairfax County.

Virginia officials are following the common procedure of continuing a public-awareness campaign and urging residents to clear rain gutters and rid their property of such mosquito breeding grounds as old tires and abandoned children’s pools.

“We want to get the message out about how important it is to eliminate standing water,” Miss Caldwell said. “Whether it’s a trampoline, toys in the yard, anywhere water can possibly collect. Every time it rains, get out there, get that water and toss it.”

Maryland officials also are relying on larvicide and public awareness.

“It’s a multipronged approach,” said Sue DuPont, a spokeswoman for the state’s Department of Agriculture. “Communities have to apply for larvicide treatment, but we also reach out to educate them about getting rid of [standing] water.”

Jeannine Dorothy, a department entomologist, said the larvicide techniques vary by location. “West of the [Chesapeake] Bay, we treat areas more by hand. On the Eastern Shore, where the problem is much worse, vehicle-mounted spraying equipment is used.”

Maryland officials also advise residents to avoid staying outside at dawn and dusk when mosquitoes are most active and to use DEET-containing repellents, wear long pants, long-sleeved shirts and hats when outdoors.

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