Not Out Of The Woods Yet

It’s too early to determine whether aerial spraying along the Conewango Creek in the towns of Kiantone and Carroll had the desired effects.

After discovering an imminent threat to public health due to mosquitoes found to be carrying West Nile Virus and Eastern Equine Encephalitis, about 6,300 acres were sprayed. Included in the area were U.S. Highway 62 to the west, the Conewango Creek area between Peck Settlement Road and Wahlgren Road to the north up to and including Frewsburg, Ivory Road, Water Street and Warren Road to the east, and the New York/Pennsylvania state border to the south. The Chautauqua County Department of Health and Human Services emphasized spraying would not take place over open waters, such as the Conewango Creek.

“I think, in the interest of public health, (spraying) was a wise decision,” said Legislator Tom Erlandson, D-Frewsburg. “It’s being done elsewhere in the state, as far as I know, entirely by the same fellow that sprayed us. This fellow has 50 years of experience, not just in New York state, but around the country and, in fact, different places around the world. He’s very skilled, he knows his business. He has the proper equipment.”

Christine Schuyler, director of Health and Human Services, said the spraying isn’t guaranteed to kill all of the infected mosquitoes.

“The goal really is to control the mosquito population,” she said. “So, there is still risk out there. There’s also a risk in the areas that weren’t sprayed, if by chance there are the mosquitoes.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, West Nile Virus is most commonly transferred to humans from mosquitoes. Most people infected with the virus show no symptoms. However, roughly one in five people who are infected will develop a fever and other symptoms, such as headache, body aches, joint pains, vomiting, diarrhea or a rash. Less than 1 percent of infected people develop a serious, sometimes fatal, neurological illness.

Eastern Equine Encephalitis is rare in humans, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Most people infected by the virus show no symptoms. Severe cases, however, begin with the sudden onset of headache, high fever, chills and vomiting. The illness may then progress into disorientation, seizures or coma. The virus is one of the most severe mosquito-transmitted diseases in the United States with approximately 33 percent mortality and significant brain damage in most survivors.

Schuyler said the areas that were sprayed were specifically targeted, because that is where the state Health Department had done mosquito surveillance, and found West Nile Virus and Eastern Equine Encephalitis. The mosquitoes carrying the diseases are typically in forested swamp areas.

“The state Health Department does regular surveillance at the Audubon sanctuary, and we’re thankful the Audubon allows us to do it there, because this is why, to see if there is any illness in mosquitoes, so we can do what we can to prevent it from being transmitted to humans,” Schuyler said. “We have expanded our surveillance to some other areas that have somewhat of a similar habitat, in the town of Poland and the town of Ellicott. It will probably be another week before we get any results back from those mosquito pools.”

Since Monday, the state Health Department has been collecting mosquito traps from within the spray zone. It will test the mosquitoes to determine whether the area is clear from the diseases. At this point, Schuyler said it is hard to say whether additional spraying will be done.

Erlandson’s main concern about the spraying last weekend, he said, was how little advance notice was given to residents living within the spray area.

“I would have liked to have had more advance notice,” he said. “I got an email Thursday afternoon. I sent it to the supervisors of Kiantone and Carroll. It was in the newspaper Friday, the spraying was Sunday. It would have been nice to have more advance notice. I think the county did everything they could, through all the media.”

In the case of an imminent threat, Schuyler said the county is only required to give 24 hours notice.

“When that happens, we have the duty to act swiftly to protect the public’s health,” she said. “So, the board of health did have an emergency meeting, and they decided to move forward with spraying. Per regulations, when there’s an imminent threat to public health, we’re only required to give 24 hours notice. Now, in the future, if the board of health chooses to do regular spraying, like a whole lot of other counties do, that is something that is a planned spraying, and we would give at least two weeks notice. But, it’s a little bit different when you’re in an emergency situation.”

In order to protect against potential mosquito hazards, the County Department of Health and Human Services recommends getting rid of any standing water and cutting weeds and tall grass; making sure all windows and doors have screens and repairing broken screens; wearing long pants, long sleeves, shoes and socks outdoors before dawn and after dusk; and using insect repellent containing DEET, Picaridin, Oil of Lemon Eucalyptus, or IR3535 to prevent mosquito bites.

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