County starts aerial assault on mosquitoes

By on September 7, 2011

Update: Aerial spraying for mosquitoes resumes tonight »

Trash can become a mosquito breeding ground. (CDC)

“Monday was the big hatch.”

That was how Dare County Vector Control Supervisor Carl Walker explained the swarms of mosquitoes that people are buzzing about this week.

After a long stretch of dry weather, Hurricane Irene provided plenty of moisture for eggs to hatch and begin the mosquito life cycle.

Starting Thursday at 6:30 p.m., the county will a start an aerial assault on the pests, weather permitting, Walker said Wednesday.

Excluding federal and state property, about 50,000 acres in Dare County will be sprayed from Southern Shores to Hatteras

“If you’re outside when the plane is going by, don’t look up,” he advised. The spray could sting if it gets into your eyes, but Walker added that no major medical complications would arise from exposure to it.

Health officials agree but advised closing windows and washing homegrown fruit and vegetables when spraying is being done in the immediate area.

The county hired two planes – one from Greenville Miss., and the other from Pensacola, Fla. – to do the job. Since Hurricane Irene was responsible, “FEMA is supposed to reimburse us,” Walker said.

Water from the storm started dormant eggs on a new life cycle, Nags Head Public Works Director Dave Clark told the town’s Board of Commissioners Wednesday. One way to slow it down, he said, is to get rid of any standing water — in old tires, flowers pots and buckets — anywhere it can collect.

Walker said one reason for the aerial spraying is public health and safety.

“These mosquitoes could be carrying diseases,” he said. Also, “if you’re up there working on a power line and swatting at mosquitoes, you could hit the wrong line and get electrocuted.”

In a nearby county, a horse was recently found to have Eastern Equine Encephalitis virus (EEE), or Triple E, according to Walker. Concerns over mosquitoes carrying Triple E, which is also fatal to humans, as well as West Nile virus, contributed to the decision to do an aerial spray.

For the spray to take place Thursday night as planned, winds must be less than 15 mph and visibility should be 1,000 feet. The planes fly at 300 feet, Walker said.

“You should see a big difference Friday,” he said, adding that if the weather does not cooperate Thursday, the spray will take place Friday; and if not Friday, then Saturday.

Trapping mosquitoes and other methods will allow the county to see how effective the aerial spray was, and dependent upon that, the county’s vehicles will resume spraying one to five nights each week, he said.

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