1:38pm

Wed May 25, 2011
Science/Health

State Set to Fight Mosquitos

FRANKFORT - The state has begun implementation of an initiative to combat the growing mosquito problem in Western Kentucky caused by recent floods. Treatments to kill adult mosquitoes will begin Wednesday night, weather permitting. “Last week I ordered the development of a comprehensive plan to reduce the current mosquito population in numerous western counties and to help diminish further outbreaks later in the summer,” Gov. Beshear said. “Today we begin implementation of that plan, and I hope our swift action will bring relief to thousands of Kentuckians as flood victims begin to recover.”

Last month’s severe storms and flooding caused significant damage in the western portion of the state. Floodwaters are receding, but standing and stagnant water will remain a problem for weeks. Those pools of water are prime breeding grounds for mosquitoes.

The abatement plan is a two-part process, addressing both adult mosquitoes and their larvae. The treatment will begin in areas with the highest population along or near waterways where flooding is the greatest and where large numbers of mosquitoes have been reported. The first phase involves a professional contractor aerial spraying and treating more than 700,000 acres across Western Kentucky. The aerial treatment, which will target adult mosquitoes, will begin each day at dusk and continue until shortly after midnight.

Planes will start the treatment Wednesday night, and the process could take three days to complete, depending on the weather. Weather permitting, areas around the state parks in Western Kentucky will be treated before the Memorial Day weekend.

Following the aerial treatment, ground crews from the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet will work with the Department for Public Health, local health departments and local officials on abatement follow-up. Transportation will apply treatment to target mosquito larvae in standing water to help prevent emerging populations over the coming weeks. Simultaneously, the Kentucky Department of Agriculture will continue to use its existing equipment and trucks to spray ditch lines along roads in the counties receiving the mosquito treatment.

The chemicals used for these treatments are only harmful to mosquitoes, gnats and black flies. University of Kentucky entomologist Dr. Grayson Brown, who is nationally recognized for his extensive research on mosquitoes, is an adviser to the taskforce. According Dr. Brown, aerial spraying is the only way to control the rising mosquito population in Western Kentucky. The spray is safe for humans, pets and livestock.

Brown and officials from Public Health agree that even with increases in mosquito populations, only a small percentage of mosquitoes are anticipated to carry diseases that could be transmitted to humans. However, reducing the mosquito population is expected to further lower the chances of disease-carrying mosquitoes biting humans.

Spraying for mosquitoes is one part of a comprehensive mosquito control program. Residents can also reduce their risk of being bitten by helping to eradicate standing water in containers on their property and by taking personal protective measures, such as wearing insect repellent and long-sleeved clothing.

Citizens can contact their local health department for further information about mosquitoes. To review Public Health’s information on mosquitoes and treatments, visit http://healthalerts.ky.gov/Pages/AlertItem.aspx?alertID=40683.

The agencies on the taskforce advising the governor are the Transportation Cabinet, the Energy and Environment Cabinet, the Finance and Administration Cabinet, the Department for Public Health, the Department of Fish and Wildlife, the Department for Local Government, the Governor’s Office on Agricultural Policy and the Kentucky Department of Agriculture.