Mosquito-borne virus surfaces south of Middlebury

BRANDON  — The Brandon, Leicester, Salisbury, Goshen and Pittsford Insect Control District, known as the BLSG, and the Vermont Department of Health has reported that mosquitoes collected in several area towns tested positive for West Nile Virus.
BLSG Director of Operations Will Mathis on Friday reported that a sample containing the first positive case of WNV in Brandon was collected on July 30. More recently a positive sample from Brandon was collected on Sept. 4. On Aug. 31 the Department of Health reported that one batch of mosquitoes collected Aug. 20 in Leicester tested positive for West Nile Virus. Six batches of mosquitoes collected on Aug. 16 in Leicester also tested positive.
“It’s still serious, we can’t forget about the virus,” Mathis said.
An Aug. 27 batch of Whiting mosquitoes tested positive for WNV, as did another batch collected in Sudbury on July 9. Both towns border the western side of the BLSG District. As mosquitoes can fly one to three miles or more with a prevailing westerly wind, the BLSG District is subsequently affected, Mathis said.
West Nile Virus is a viral infection typically spread by mosquitoes. According to the Centers for Disease Control, about one in five people who are infected develop symptoms including headache, body ache, joint pains, vomiting, diarrhea or a rash. About one in 150 infected people develop a more severe illness that affects the central nervous system, resulting in maladies including encephalitis or meningitis. There are no vaccines or medications to treat WNV in humans. The Vermont Department of Health reported three cases of WNV in Vermont in 2017.
In 2012, a Brandon man and a Sudbury man died from Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE). EEE was detected again in mosquitoes in Whiting in 2013 and 2014, but there have been no other human EEE cases in the area since 2012.
Mosquito season typically runs from April to early October. During this time, mosquito control officials conduct routine activities including surveillance of mosquito populations, species identification, source reduction, biological control initiatives, ground and aerial application of insecticides and public outreach and education.
Mathis reported mosquito numbers in the area have increased in the past week by about 25 percent due to sustained higher temperatures and the recent storms. The BLSG District is observing two new mosquito species carrying the West Nile Virus — the Culiseta and the Anopheles.
The BLSG uses specialized fogging/spraying machines to control flying adult mosquitoes. The district treats both public and private roadways. According to the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention adulticide spraying will not harm people, pets, animals or the environment. People raising bees, though, often try to stop spraying of mosquito-killing adulticide in areas that bees forage.
The existing permit allows the BLSG to spray two pesticides along the roadways in the district to kill adult mosquitos. The pesticides Malathion and Permethrin have been used by the district for about 20 years. Pesticides are applied by sprayers on the back of BLSG trucks.
The BLSG’s Pesticide General Permit is under review by the Vermont Environmental Court under a rule that lets it examine any documentation related to the permit to ensure state and federal regulations were followed. The review is the result of an appeal of the permit by the Toxics Action Center and the Environmental Natural Resources Law Clinic at Vermont Law School in June. The appeal challenges the adulticide spraying program.
Mathis said the review of the permit would not affect the district’s ability to treat for mosquitoes in the short-term.
“That could change possibly following the review, but not right now,” he said.
Steer Clear of Mosquitoes
To protect from West Nile Virus, the Vermont Department of Health recommends that people:
•  Wear long pants and long-sleeved shirts when outdoors.
•  Limit time spent outside at dawn and dusk when mosquitoes are most likely to bite.
•  Use an EPA-registered insect repellant.
•  Cover baby carriages, strollers and outdoor playpens with mosquito netting.
•  Mosquito-proof homes by installing or repairing screens.
•  Get rid of standing water in gutters, flower pots or bird baths, which can serve as a breeding ground for mosquitoes.

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