Metro health department tracking mosquito population and testing for diseases
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- The Metro Department of Public Health and Wellness is busy tracking the mosquito population with multiple traps across the Jefferson County.
“We’re out protecting public health from the spread of mosquito-borne disease,” said Nick Hart, the department’s environmental health manager.
The department hires extra workers during the summer to handle the mosquito season. Through the spring, crews started treating areas known as breeding grounds, which includes swampy areas, ditches and catch basins.
“We go out to those areas early in the year,” said Matthew Vanderpool, an environmental health specialist. “That way, we can knock down mosquito populations before they hatch off as adults.”
But mosquito season is about to kick into high gear, and with that comes a higher potential for mosquitoes to spread diseases. The department wants to know how many but also what kinds of mosquitoes are in different areas, because certain types are known to carry diseases.
To track the population, there are eight traps in the same spots around the county every year. But there are also moveable, temporary traps set up to track where mosquitoes are moving and breeding. And the current summer heat is ideal for the pests to breed.
“Where we are right now with 85, 90, 95 degree days, mosquitoes are breeding about as fast as they can," Vanderpool sad. "It’s about 4.5 days from when they lay and when they’re hatching off.”
Workers test mosquitoes in the department’s lab for Saint Louis encephalitis, the Zika virus and West Nile virus. So far, nothing has tested positive, but that is expected to change.
“Odds are we may see something like West Nile virus later on in the year, which is fairly typical for this area,” Vanderpool said.
So before the virus hits, department leaders say now is the perfect time to prepare. In order to properly rid your yard of mosquitoes, you need to get rid of all standing water.
“If the water goes away, the mosquitoes go away,” Vanderpool said. “Because all mosquitoes require standing water to breed.”
Water can settle in tires, kids’ toys, bird baths, tarps, ditches and gutters. If you notice a mosquito problem in your area, call 311 to report it. That will notify the department to send crews out to monitor the area and potentially set up traps or plan treatments.
“We’ll inspect those homes,” Hart said. “We’ll inspect those properties to identify why do people have so many mosquitoes in their yard. And then we’ll coach them on how to actually remove those mosquitoes.”
Hart also highly recommends everyone take precaution while outside and wear long sleeves and insect repellant containing Deet in order to avoid mosquito bites.
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