Milford kicks off mosquito fighting season
With 23 cases of human West Nile virus in Connecticut last year, including one death, controlling mosquitoes is nothing to take lightly.
That was the message from area scientists as they helped kick off Milford’s annual mosquito control program April 23 in a marshy area off Pond Point Avenue in Milford.
Milford’s mosquito control program, described as one of the most robust in the state, involves All Habitat Services of Branford monitoring the city’s wetlands, and treating the marshy areas, storm drains, and catch basins throughout the city with larvicide to kill mosquito larvae before it grows into adult mosquitoes.
The primary focus of the program is on preventive efforts through mosquito breeding site reduction, especially in densely populated areas, and education about personal protection against bites. The scientists on hand in Milford Tuesday said last year was a bad year for West Nile virus in the state and they emphasized the need for residents to be diligent about protecting themselves from mosquitoes.
“Last year was a record year for West Nile virus activity in the state both in the number of virus isolations we obtained in our program and in the number of human cases that were reported,” said John Shepard, biologist with the Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station. “Last year there were 23 human cases reported of West Nile virus, where there was unfortunately one fatality.”
The death was the first West Nile-linked fatality in the state since 2006. The victim was reportedly a West Haven resident between 80 and 90 years old.
The scientists on hand Tuesday said so far 2019 has been fairly typical in terms of weather, and coming months will determine the level of danger from mosquito-borne illnesses.
“In terms of the West Nile virus season, that will largely depend on rainfall and temperatures as we go through June, July and August,” Shepard said.
Milford Health Director Deepa Joseph said the key to decreasing the risk of humans getting West Nile virus, Eastern equine encephalitis and associated diseases, is to minimize the interaction between mosquitoes and humans.
“Our program aims to reduce the number of adult mosquitoes through consistent site monitoring and applying treatments of larvicide to key breeding sites,” Joseph said.
During a demonstration Tuesday at Milford Land Trust property off Pond Point Avenue in Milford, scientists hung a net fitted with a light and a fan from a tree to show how the Connecticut Agricultural Experiment station captures mosquitoes around the state before taking them back to their facility to sort and have tested for mosquito-borne viruses. There are two mosquito trapping sites in Milford and 91 throughout the state, which the station will monitor from June to October for West Nile virus and Eastern equine encephalitis.
While city and state agencies are working to minimize the risks from mosquitoes, residents have to do their part too by keeping their yards free of standing water where mosquitoes can breed, officials said.
“It is real and it’s here,” said Roger Wolfe, mosquito management coordinator for the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection. “West Nile is here. It’s been here for 20 years now since we first found it in ‘99. The cautionary statements they put out each year are nothing to be taken lightly. Clean up the back yard. It’s nothing to be lax about.”
The Milford Health Department advises residents follow the “3 Ds” for protection:
• Drain or dump any standing water that may produce mosquitoes, including in ceramic pots, used tires, tree holes and other cavities in plants.
• Dress properly: Wear light-colored, loose fitting clothing. When practical, wear long sleeves and pants.
• Defend against mosquito bites by using a mosquito repellent that has been registered by the Environmental Protection Agency, such as DEET, Picaridin, or oil of lemon eucalyptus.
For additional prevention tips or more information, visit the Milford Health Department website at ci.milford.ct.us/environmental-health-division/pages/mosquito-control.
To report unusual numbers of mosquitoes, Milford residents can call the health department at 203-783-3287.