Clayton County spraying for mosquitoes

By Justin Reedy

With the weather warming up and mosquito season officially here, Clayton County is taking steps to cut down on the pests and prevent the spread of the mosquito-borne West Nile Virus.

Workers from the Clayton County Department of Central Services have begun spraying for mosquitoes countywide to help limit the population of the insects. In addition, the county is using briquettes of larvicide in pools of standing water in an attempt to destroy mosquito breeding grounds.

Mosquitoes aren't just bothersome pests n the insects can also carry West Nile Virus and other diseases. WNV can cause encephalitis, or a swelling of the brain, in some people who are infected with the virus, health officials say. The virus, which is also carried by birds, is particularly harmful in people with weakened immune systems or the elderly.

West Nile has already started to re-emerge in metro Atlanta this year, with a dead bird found recently in Henry County testing positive for the virus. Health officials have categorized the spread of West Nile by studying the distribution of dead birds infected by the virus, but that philosophy is starting to shift.

"The shift is going towards mosquito pools instead of birds," said Kathy Browning, the public information officer for the Clayton County Health Department. "The birds have told us that West Nile is here, and it's not going away."

To keep the mosquito population down, the county uses two trucks with pesticide sprayers to blanket the area with bug spray during mosquito season, which typically begins in May and lasts until the end of October. The trucks will be running from 5 to 10 p.m., Monday through Friday, through October, according to Chuck Cooke, director of Central Services for the county.

Spraying alternates between four quadrants of the county, with two quadrants being sprayed each week. Rainy or windy conditions can hamper the spraying, but officials say the county will try to make up for any areas missed due to inclement weather.

Though some residents might be concerned about the dangers of spraying for mosquitoes, the county uses one of the least toxic pesticides available, Cooke said. However, anyone not wanting the county to spray by their house can call the Department of Central Services at (770) 477-3587 to request that. Despite the low toxicity of the pesticide fog, residents should avoid being sprayed directly.

In addition to spraying for mosquitoes, the county is also targeting pools of standing water, which the insects can use to hold their larvae before they hatch. Residents are encouraged to turn over any containers that can hold standing water, or to call the county for a larvicide treatment for any standing water that they can't get rid of.

To help prevent the spread of West Nile Virus to humans, health officials are urging residents to take steps such as wearing clothes that fully cover the skin or applying a mosquito repellent that includes the chemical DEET. Residents are also encouraged to call the Clayton County Environmental Health Department at (770) 961-8399 to report any dead birds.