Greenfield considers joining Pioneer Valley Mosquito Control District

City Council to discuss topic Wednesday

  • Mosquitoes can carry deadly diseases, like Eastern Equine Encephalitis or West Nile Virus, that can be transmitted to humans and animals. AP PHOTO

Staff Writer
Published: 7/12/2020 10:59:53 AM

GREENFIELD — The city is considering joining the Pioneer Valley Mosquito Control District, so that it can suppress both nuisance and disease-carrying mosquitoes before a problem arises, like the potentially fatal Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE) virus or West Nile Virus.

The first two EEE-positive mosquitoes of the year were detected in Orange and Wendell, on July 1 and July 5, respectively.

If the City Council — which will discuss the issue on Wednesday — votes to join the district, it will cost Greenfield $5,000 initially and then there will be an annual fee. Being a member of the Pioneer Valley Mosquito Control District will provide the city with help trapping mosquitoes to find what percentage carry disease and with killing mosquito larvae.

Some of the towns that have joined the district, such as Leyden, Bernardston, Deerfield and Rowe in Franklin County and at least eight others in Hampshire and Hampden counties, say it is much more costly to deal with an out-of-control mosquito population than to manage them before they get that way. Heath voters just opted to join the district during a Special Town Meeting on Saturday.

Deerfield Selectboard and Board of Health member Carolyn Ness said, for example, the town had to replace many undersized culverts because they had become breeding grounds for mosquitoes, and some of that work could have been avoided if the mosquitoes had been killed sooner. She said the culvert replacement cost a lot more than the initial fee to join.

Ness said the bigger risk, though, is public health. Controlling a town’s or city’s mosquito population is important for the health of the community, protecting it against mosquito-borne illnesses like EEE and West Nile Virus.

“We know that mosquitoes can cause a lot of trouble,” Ness said. “We’ve seen it here in Franklin County. We don’t want to keep seeing it.”

Greenfield Health Director Valerie Bird brought the proposal to join the Pioneer Valley Mosquito Control District to the city. She said she and the Board of Health believe taking care of potentially dangerous mosquito populations, if they become so, is very important.

Bird said cities and towns need to educate the public and do outreach, reduce populations, trap mosquitoes and spray as a “very last resort.” The Pioneer Valley Mosquito Control District does that for members.

“It identifies key areas in an effort to prevent humans becoming infected,” Bird said.

The Pioneer Valley Mosquito Control District not only does outreach and planning for member towns and cities, but acts as a liaison, working with each individually by doing weekly surveillance and testing and mailing tests to state labs, receiving the results and advising towns and cities. It also provides habitat mapping and tries to determine signs of West Nile Virus and EEE before humans or animals are affected.

Matthew Osborne of the state Department of Public Health, Greg Lewis of the Pioneer Valley Mosquito Control District and Ness shared their experiences late last year during a meeting at the Franklin Regional Council of Governments. They spoke about mosquito control practices, reviewed past seasons and discussed future goals.

Mosquitoes generally thrive in wet, warm temperatures, and have been found on properties where there is standing water, whether it’s a pond or a bucket of water. They are typically out in full force at dusk and dawn.

Ness believes mosquito problems are worse than they used to be, and that will continue because of climate change. She said one of the best ways to prevent West Nile Virus and EEE outbreaks is to kill mosquito larvae.

According to the state Department of Public Health, outbreaks of EEE typically occur every 10 to 20 years and last two to three years. The most recent outbreak in Massachusetts began in 2019 and included 12 cases with six deaths. Once diseases are detected, the risk levels remain elevated until the first frost in the late fall or early winter.

Greenfield’s City Council will discuss whether to join the Pioneer Valley Mosquito Control District during its meeting Wednesday, which starts at 7 p.m. To view the agenda or join the meeting via Webex, visit greenfield-ma.gov/d/6256/City-Council-Meeting.

Protect yourself

■Use insect repellents when outside

■Wear shirts with long sleeves

■Avoid scheduling outdoor activities during the most active hours for mosquitoes

■Repair damaged window and door screens

■Remove standing water from areas around homes

For more information, about the Pioneer Valley Mosquito Control District, visit bit.ly/2CfOHAo. Or, for more information on mosquitoes and ticks, visit bit.ly/2BSsOYg.

With questions or concerns, contact Public Health Nurse Lisa White at 413-665-1400, ext. 114.


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