Courtesy of MCT
As the West Nile Virus threatens Ohio this year, Columbus is fighting hard to keep the culprits at bay.
Culex mosquitoes are one variety of mosquito that is responsible for infecting humans with the West Nile Virus, the virus responsible for killing Hamilton County’s Richard Wesp Sept. 18.
Jose Rodriguez, director of communications for Columbus Public Health, said this summer was very unusual. It was dry and Culex mosquitoes thrive in dry summers, which is why this summer presented the greatest West Nile Virus threat since 2002.
“Even though we had a lot less mosquitoes, we had a lot more infected mosquitoes,” Rodriguez said.
Columbus Public Health captures mosquitoes to understand the community’s risk. Out of all the Culex mosquitoes captured, one out of every 80 was infected.
According to the Columbus Public Health website, one of every 150 people bitten by an infected mosquito is expected to be severely ill, while others might experience flu-like symptoms or none at all. According to an Aug. 20 Columbus Dispatch report, a woman in Franklin County was diagnosed with West Nile Virus last month, the first of the season in Franklin County, but the 16th in the state.
Since then, at least five other human cases have been documented in Franklin County, and the total number of cases in Ohio has jumped to more than 80, according to a Sept. 19 Columbus Dispatch report.
As a result of the elevated risk of the West Nile Virus this year, Columbus Public Health has been taking action.
It prevents mosquitoes with five steps. First, Columbus Public Health traps mosquitoes to gather data about the types, quantities and infection level of the insect’s population.
Secondly, they locate breeding sources, or standing bodies of water. This step leads into the third, which is larviciding, a process involving the treatment standing bodies of water in order to kill mosquito larvae.
Rodriguez emphasized that chemicals used to treat standing water and kill mosquitoes are used only as prescribed.
He explained the fourth step to prevent mosquitoes and the West Nile Virus is simply education.
“We can spray, or we can larvicide until the mosquitoes come home,” Rodriguez said. “But it is the resident that really has the greatest ability to control mosquitoes in their own neighborhood.”
This control amounts to ridding one’s property of standing bodies of water. Rodriguez said old tires, bird baths and rain barrels are important things to empty frequently. Avoiding areas where mosquitoes are prevalent is helpful, too.
The fifth and final step in protecting the community from the arthropod menace is spraying.
“That is the last thing that we do, but it is the one that gets the most attention,” Rodriguez said. “It is the one that people talk about the most.”
Rodriguez said this step is really only used to kill mature mosquitoes. The other steps are preventative methods to kill and prevent the maturation of mosquito larvae.
He said spraying is based on a formula.
The Columbus Public Health looks at how many mosquitoes are in an area and how many are infected. Spray is based upon the risk calculated. This system, recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, can be bypassed if desired. Rodriguez said those who make what Columbus Public Health calls a “no fog” request represent a small part of the community. “No-fog” requests come from citizens speaking out against mosquito spraying in the city.
“It is a very small group of people, but important group of people,” Rodriguez said. However, the requests Columbus Public Health usually obliges have not been honored since the first human case in Columbus this year.
Rodriguez said the health commissioner made the decision not to honor the “no fog” in order to protect the public health.
Some OSU students said they felt protected from dangerous mosquitoes in Columbus.
“I find it a little alarming, but I do not think I will be putting mosquito repellent on every day,” said Connor Casey, a first-year in business.
But Casey did not know about the death on Sept. 18. While he said he was concerned, he has faith in Columbus Public Health.
“Obviously if they could do anything they would,” Casey said.
Casey called for more education and awareness about West Nile Virus. He was not the only one.
“You always hear about flu shots but never hear anything about West Nile,” said Faith Carver, a second-year in chemical engineering.
She said she will be using insect repellent to lower her risk.
“It is a good lifestyle choice, especially now,” Carver said.
As the mosquito season is ending in Columbus, there is good news.
“We did not have anyone die in our region,” Rodriguez said. “And the weather is changing.”