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Putnam residents: Mosquito problem has become ‘unbearable’

By CARLEE LAMMERS

Charleston Gazette-Mail

ELEANOR, W.Va. — Officials from the Kanawha-Charleston and Putnam County health departments were in Eleanor on Monday, working to help remedy a mosquito issue that some residents say has become “unbearable.”

Some of the mosquitoes caught Monday from the Nutmeg Street neighborhood of Eleanor.
(Photo by Chris Dorst)

Stan Mills, director of environmental services for the Kanawha-Charleston Health Department, said residents who live along Nutmeg and Maple streets are likely facing the worst of the mosquito issue because of the neighborhood’s proximity to Buffalo Creek. The two roads border a wooded area that includes the creek, where mosquitoes are common.

Some residents, though, say the problem is getting worse.

“Buffalo Creek doesn’t flow all year long. Some of the residents who have lived here 70 years said that it doesn’t take long for there to be pools of water everywhere after it rains,” Mills said. “That’s probably conducive to mosquito breeding. It doesn’t take but about five or six days for these mosquitoes to show up. It only takes a tablespoon of water to get these things going.”

James Moore, who has lived on Nutmeg Street for 15 years, said he’s seen the issue get worse throughout his time living in the neighborhood.

“You can’t go outside at dusk, at night and definitely not in the morning. Trying to mow your lawn in the lower areas, even midday sometimes — it’s just unbearable. You get attacked so much,” he said. “I have a little pool in the yard and I can’t even go out at night to swim in the pool because you just get attacked.”

Mills, along with four interns from the two health departments, spent Monday setting mosquito traps. Several residents in the area now have battery-operated traps that sit on the ground near weeded or wooded areas on their property. Every two days, Mills returns to the properties to change the batteries and remove and replace the netting that holds the trapped mosquitoes.

The traps will help health department officials identify the types of mosquitoes in the area, send the insects to a lab to be tested for disease and, it is hoped, identify the source of the insects, Mills said.

A mosquito in Cabell County recently tested positive for West Nile virus, so Mills said officials are testing as many mosquitoes as they can in surrounding areas. No diseases have been detected in Putnam or Kanwha counties this year.

Stephanie Curry, an intern for the Kanawha-Charleston Health Department, used a vacuum-like aspirator tool to collect nearly a dozen mosquitoes Monday.

Curry said officials have found several species of mosquito in Eleanor — but primarily those in the Aedes and Culex genera. Both of which can carry diseases, including West Nile, she said.

The West Nile virus was first detected in West Virginia in 2002, and typically affects the elderly the most. West Nile can cause fever, headache, body aches, joint pains, vomiting diarrhea or body rash, according to information from the health department.

So far, the majority of the area’s mosquitoes are what are known as “flood plain mosquitoes,” Mills said.

“When the water is there, they are active and lay eggs,” he said. “Then they dry up and, as soon as it rains again, you have a new hatch.”

However, officials have found some “container mosquitoes,” which breed in things like swimming pools, tires and trash cans or other containers with pools of water in them.

“We’re hoping to find a source, but mostly what we’re finding are flood plain mosquitoes,” Mills said. “It doesn’t take much water for these container-breeder mosquitoes, and those are the ones we worry about carrying disease. For instance, one tire is worth several acres of swamp land to mosquitoes.”

Because trapping and testing the mosquitoes won’t solve the infestation issue, Mills said part of his goal is to educate the town on deterrent methods to help minimize the issue. Mosquito larvae can be found in things like tires, garbage piles, bird baths and dog bowls sitting in yards. Residents also can use deterrents, like DEET, he said.

“The best thing for people to do, unfortunately, is to try to find out how to live with the mosquitoes. Cutting the grass helps, don’t be real active at dusk and dawn. That’s when they are the worst,” he said.

“Keep your yard free of tires and garbage piles. If you’ve got a dog bowl or bird bath out, change it every few days, dump it and clean it. The mosquito lay these little black dots that can stick to the surface.”

Town Councilman Cam Clendenin has been updating residents about the town’s mosquito issue on his official Facebook page for several weeks.

Because many of the properties with mosquito issues are not owned by the town, he said, the town can’t intervene or spray for mosquitoes.

Clendenin, who has been working with Mills for several weeks, said he’s helping spread information to Eleanor residents so they can try their own deterrent or trapping methods.

“It’s a nusiance. To hear people say they can’t go outside is just awful,” Clendenin said. “Once [Mills] gives an action plan, it’ll be up to the residents.”

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