Health Department declares war on mosquitoes

Asian Tiger mosquito

It may be small, but the mosquito has been a major news story most of the year. Now the Portsmouth City Health Department is going to deal with mosquito infestations. Andy Gedeon, Director of Environmental Health for the Portsmouth City Health Department and Molly Dargavell, epidemiologist with the Portsmouth City Health Department, serving Scioto and Lawrence counties, are involved in a new program.

“We’ve started a mosquito surveillance program,” Andy Gedeon, Director of Environmental Health, for the Portsmouth City Health Department, said. “We received a $25,000 grant from the Ohio EPA. We’re working with the Lawrence-Scioto Solid Waste Management District and local townships here and the city wards as far as surveillance and mosquito abatement.”

Mosquitoes have been in the news because of the zika virus carried by certain types of mosquitoes.

“We’re trying to stay ahead of the game with surveillance,” Gedeon said. “Molly is doing that, and we have a licensed pest control operator on staff that will be doing some fogging, also.”

Dargavell said people can make complaints to the Health Department, preferably about a generalized area, not about a single residence, by calling 740-354-8931.

“Once they make that complaint, we’ll go out to the area, and what we will do is set traps,” Dargavell said. “We have two separate kinds of traps and they catch two different types of mosquitoes.”

The Yellow Fever mosquito is the mosquito that transmits the zika virus. Dargavell said we don’t have that type of mosquito in this region. What is most common in the southern Ohio region is the Asian Tiger mosquito.

“It’s unclear whether they (Asian Tiger) are capable of transmitting zika or not. We just expect it that they possibly can,” Dargavell said. “I don’t know that there has been reported cases of them transmitting the virus. That’s kind of hard to prove. There has been nothing from the CDC as to whether they have or not.”

Gedeon said the Health Department personnel can go out to the site where the infestation is reported and point out things that enable mosquitoes to breed.

“That includes tires, those kiddie pools turned over with water,” Gedeon said. “We’ll point out where mosquitoes can breed, give them some information, tell them how to treat them. If needed, we can fog that area.”

As a part of the grant, the Health Department will have a mosquito spray station at River Days, and people attending the event can spray themselves. Gedeon said the product used is safe for infants and women who are pregnant. The mosquito spray will also be available at the offices of obstetrician/gynecologists and pediatricians.

“The point of the trapping season is to try to determine hot spots within the city that need to be more heavily sprayed,” Dargavell said. “The more important thing is that prevention starts with the individual. It’s only so effective to try to spray these areas, because they can develop resistance, they can hide, but if people are taking their own preventive measures at home, that can be effective.”

What preventive steps can people take?

  • No standing water

  • Wear long sleeves

  • Use mosquito spray

Reach Frank Lewis at 740-353-3101, ext. 1928, or on Twitter @franklewis.