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Mosquitoes cause a buzz, but local budget limited

By TRAVIS WEIK - tweik@thecouriertimes.com

The mosquito didn’t get quite enough votes to be named the Indiana State insect, but that hasn’t stopped the bloodsuckers from pestering Henry County residents.

The bugs are most active around dusk and dawn each day. They are also going to be around until at least the first hard freeze of the season. 

Until the weather turns, the march against mosquitoes will be fought by private property owners and the Henry County Health Department.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), mosquitoes can carry diseases like West Nile and Zika viruses and, in tropical climates, dengue and malaria.

The Henry County Health Department announced earlier this week that mosquitoes recently collected in Henry County have tested positive for West Nile virus.

This brings the total in Indiana to 369 West Nile positive mosquito pools thus far in 2018. There has been three confirmed human cases of West Nile Virus in Indiana this year.

In order to help prevent the local spread of disease, the Henry County Health Department sprays for the bugs when it can.

Environmental Public Health Director Shalei Rogers explained that the health department is constrained by their annual budget, manpower and lack of a dedicated vehicle.

Rogers said the City of New Castle let the health department borrow a truck this year to help them spray. The current batch of pesticide was purchased by a grant from the Indiana State Department of Health.

“We could have a mosquito budget the size of Marion County and we still wouldn’t be able to eliminate the local mosquito problem,” Rogers said.

Rogers explained that the Henry County Health Department has sprayed for mosquitoes before large public events at Memorial Park, county golf courses and around some of the school buildings.

“We do try to protect the areas if we know there’s going to be a big event, like the 4th of July,” Rogers said.

The health department has also sprayed for mosquitoes in White Estates. Sewage from that neighborhood drains into a large open ditch. A failed septic system can also turn a backyard or neighboring field into a mosquito breeding ground.

“Mosquitoes like to breed in water with high organic matter,” Rogers said.

Rogers said Henry County residents can help control the local mosquito population by eliminating breeding grounds for the bugs.

Any containers that hold water – such as bird baths, kiddie pools, decorative ponds, old tires or clogged gutters – should be flushed at least weekly, Rogers said.

“We would always prefer to stop breeding grounds versus using chemicals,” Rogers said.