Mosquito control tips Mosquito fogging worries some St. John residents

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The V.I. Health Department's plan to fog for mosquitoes territory-wide has sparked some controversy, at least among some St. John residents.

With dengue fever cases still being reported from a local outbreak, the V.I. Health Department's Environmental Health Division began fogging for mosquitoes on St. Croix on Wednesday evening, a day later than originally planned after rain prevented a Tuesday start.

The Health Department anticipates fogging for three evenings on St. Croix, through Friday, and then fogging in the St. Thomas-St. John District next week.

The plan to fog for mosquitoes has prompted concern from some St. John residents.

"I don't know enough about it," St. John resident Michelle Ward said in a telephone interview. She said that the issue was brought up briefly during an unrelated community gathering on St. John last weekend.

"I think there are a lot of people concerned about it on St. John. I think people want to know more," Ward said. "That's what I'm hearing."

The chemical being used, Permanone 30-30, is the same one the Health Department has used in previous years for mosquito fogging, said Romeo Christopher, director of the Health Department's Environmental Health Division. The chemical is registered with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and is used to kill adult mosquitoes.

Christopher described Permanone 30-30 as "environmentally friendly."

St. John resident Gary Ray, who said he has a doctorate in environmental science and has taught at the University of the Virgin Islands, voiced concerns about the fogging, how it would be done and how it might affect the environment and the community.

The Health Department issued a statement Dec. 31 saying it would begin fogging neighborhoods this week "to decrease the population of nuisance mosquitoes." However, the statement also pointed out that "fogging by itself does not effectively reduce the risk of dengue transmission."

Christopher said the fogging tends to kill off what he called the "nuisance mosquitoes, the ones outside," but it does not necessarily deal with mosquitoes breeding in and around the home that could be carrying dengue.

According to the Health Department statement, the fogging is being done in addition to other mosquito abatement efforts, such as larviciding, which involves the treatment of water that holds mosquito eggs, or larvae, to kill off the immature mosquito before it becomes a flying mosquito. This method of mosquito abatement was chosen because it was deemed more environmentally friendly and more effective in controlling Aedes mosquitoes, according to the department.

Dengue fever is caused by a virus transmitted by the bite of an infected Aedes Aegypti mosquito. These mosquitoes lie in and around houses and buildings and are active during the daytime, according to the Health Department. They lay eggs around where people live in containers that hold water, such as old tires, plant containers, empty drums and food containers for animals.

The release included a variety of steps people can take to help prevent contracting the dengue virus, including closing windows and doors that don't have screens, wearing clothing that protects from mosquito bites, applying insect repellent, protecting infants with mosquito netting, and emptying containers that can collect water and turning them upside down,

Christopher said that he had gotten some calls from concerned St. John residents who say they don't want mosquito fogging.

Overall, the calls Christopher was getting on Tuesday from residents across the territory were about 50-50, he said, with about half of the callers saying they want the fogging done and the other half saying they do not. He did not know how many of those were from each island, he said.

Ray said that he thinks the matter should be handled differently.

Before any mosquito fogging is done, the Health Department should tell the public that it is considering such a measure, then let experts from the community weigh in on the pros and cons, he said.

"To me, what should be done, since their mandate is to protect our health, is to use expertise," Ray said. The experts could make the decision, then bring the information to the community through the Health Department, he said.

Ward said that what gave her pause was a line in the Health Department release in which the Health commissioner cautions "those with compromised immune systems to stay indoors and close windows at the time that fogging is being conducted."

Christopher said the warning is just a routine word of caution to anyone who might have allergies or asthma or who might need to take precautions during fogging.

Ward and Ray said they had tried to reach Health Department officials about their concerns, but had not yet been successful.

"I think the public should have more disclosure in a more formal way," Ward said. "Trying to reach out to the officials and get the information is a difficult task."

- Contact reporter Joy Blackburn at 714-9145 or email Residents should spray dark areas, such as closets, to kill the Aedes Aegypti mosquito, which transmits dengue, according to the statement.

- Keep tires in a dry place, and punch holes in them to make sure water drains out.

- Put plants that currently are in water into soil.

- Empty flowerpot bases weekly.

- Cover or turn food containers for animals and buckets that hold water upside down.

- Repair or replace damaged screens; keep windows and doors without screens closed; and place a screen or mesh over the overflow pipe of cisterns.

- Cover infant cribs with mosquito netting.

- Use mosquito repellents containing DEET. Follow instructions carefully and use on arms, legs, ankles and nape of neck. Avoid applying to children younger than 2 years old and to the hands of older children.

- Virgin Islands Health Department

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