Heavy rains from recent thunderstorms has prompted city officials to fire up the mosquito sprayer in an effort to cut down on the increased number of disease-spreading insects in the area.
Mosquitoes are naturally drawn to water and hot and humid temperatures, therefore their presence increases after a large amount of rain has fallen. While it is only the female mosquito that bites, those bites carry a number of serious diseases, including malaria and encephalitis.
In recent months, the Zika virus has been linked to the bite of an infected mosquito. According to the Center for Disease Control, outbreaks of Zika are occurring in many countries, and because the mosquitoes that spread Zika are found throughout the world, outbreaks in new countries are very common.
There have been no reported Zika cases in Sampson County nor North Carolina, but preventive steps to ward off any possible disease are always taken, including spraying for mosquitoes, which carry other diseases as well.
According to Jeff Vreugdenhil, public works director for the City of Clinton, for years the local municipality has participated in the mosquito spraying program to help cut down on the number of people that could be infected by the dangerous diseases. Spraying usually begins once the area has experienced a large amount of rainfall during the summer months.
“We anticipate spraying twice a week inside the city limits,” Vreugdenhil said. “This will cover the entire town each week.”
Plans were to begin the spraying process Thursday, July 7, but heavy rains and thunderstorms that brought strong winds prevented the city from starting as planned. Now spraying is expected to begin Tuesday, July 12, and continue every Tuesday and Thursday for the remainder of the summer. According to Vreugdenhil, the spraying process must be done when rain and excessive winds aren’t present.
“We do about half the town one night and then the other half on the second application,” Vreugdenhil added. “Our equipment doesn’t require riding every street, at five miles per hour, the effective range from the truck is about 300 feet downwind of the application.”
Until two years ago, state funds were provided to the city to cover the cost of the mosquito spraying program, but since the state funds stopped coming in, Vreugdenhil said the city has continued to fund the program.
“If hurricanes or extreme wet periods persist, we spray more frequently,” Vreugdenhil remarked. “We do believe this program is helpful. Despite the considerable cost of chemicals and overtime, we anticipate continuing canvasing the town once a week.”
According to the CDC, many people infected with Zika do not experience symptoms, but for those who do, the illness is usually mild with symptoms last from several days to a week. The most common symptoms are fever, rash, joint pain and conjunctivitis.
The Zika infection during pregnancy can cause a serious birth defect of the brain called microcephaly and other severe fatal brain defects.
While the city’s efforts in spraying for the mosquitoes helps, officials with the Sampson County Health Department have offered tips to help the community protect themselves from the infection.
Health officials urge residents to empty and scrub, turn over, cover or throw out items that hold water at least once a week. These items, such as tires, buckets, planters, toys and pools, are a breading ground for mosquitoes.
Using insect repellent that is registered through the Environmental Protection Agency is also a way to prevent mosquito bites.
Reach Kristy D. Carter at 910-592-8137, ext. 2588. Follow us on Twitter at @SampsonInd. Like us on Facebook.