Buzz over Mosquitos Causing Hysteria? Mosquito Control Blames Media, Not West Nile

Article excerpt

Byline: R. Michael Anderson, County Line staff writer

Heavy rainfall coupled with recent outbreaks of West Nile virus, a mosquito-borne disease that can be deadly to young children and the elderly, has kept Kennith Dyer and his crew busy lately.

"We're getting calls one right after another about mosquitos," said Dyer, supervisor of Clay County's mosquito control program in the county's public works department.

Heavy frequent rain showers this summer have spawned countless mosquitos from eggs that lay dormant in drought conditions for up to two years.

Dyer doesn't attribute the recent onslaught of complaints to the mosquito population boom. Instead, he blames the news media for stirring up fears about the West Nile virus, a disease that can cause swelling of the brain as well as the spinal cord if a person becomes infected.

"The hype is what's making people do it [complain]," Dyer said. "Nine out of 10 callers say, 'what are we doing about the West Nile virus?' "

Medical authorities say the virus is considered a serious threat only to young children, old people or those with weakened immune systems. Still, many people are worried and they're calling on the county to protect them.

Dyer, who is also projects manager in the road and bridge maintenance section, said his office typically receives about 3,000 calls a year from people complaining about mosquitos and requesting treatment in their neighborhood, which usually means sending out a fogger truck to spray insecticide.

But with only two trucks and several hundred square miles of county to cover, there's only so much Dyer and his crew can do.

"We don't do Camp Blanding," he said of the Florida National Guard's huge training compound in western Clay County. "But all the rest of the territories in the 641 square miles we do spray about seven months out of the year. We have two fogger trucks that go out, strictly by request, sometimes covering 80 to 150 miles in one night [each truck]. …