Friday, July 13, 2001
July pests prove more annoying than harmful
Now that the dog days of summer are here, you may find yourself wondering what to do about pests in your neighborhood. The out-of-school kids are relatively under control, but ticks and mosquitoes are on the rise. Any increase in insects heightens public health concerns.
So far, the news is good. Board of health agent Linda Fantasia reports only one confirmed case of Lyme disease and none of the West Nile virus. Compared to last year's total of three Lyme disease cases, it appears that concerns that the tick-borne disease is on the rise are unfounded. Nonetheless, Fantasia does suspect a slight increase as two of last year's cases happened in the fall, and "rumored" cases now number four. While the Massachusetts Department of Public Health requires doctors to register all Lyme disease cases, few are complying in a timely fashion.
West Nile virus
The department of public health continues to show concern about the West Nile virus although all tests thus far have been negative. Residents who find a dead bird on their property should call the state's West Nile virus hotline at 1-866-627-7968. If the dead bird is suspect, the state will dispatch the local board to pick up, package, and send it in for testing. To date, the line has logged 866 reports and conducted 217 tests with zero positive cases. Furthermore, no mosquito pools have tested positive. You can check public health data from the state at www.state.ma.us/dph.
A few town residents have contracted privately for the spraying of insecticide to target mosquitoes. The town currently does not restrict such activity on private property.
Given current statistics, the mosquitoes are a nuisance rather than a health threat at this point according to board of health chairman Steve Opolski. "The town appears much more willing to accept the risk of West Nile or other mosquito-borne diseases than the use of pesticide and its impact to humans and the environment," said Opolski, based on the town voting record and his personal discussions with residents. If the state data continues to show that the West Nile virus is not a risk, he said, the board "could consider instituting a spraying ban."
The development of a mosquito trap, Mosquito Magnet , gives residents something less harmful with which to attack the problem. Prices are high, nearing $1,000, however, and its efficacy is still unproven. However, a solution like that might work better in this community.
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