By John C. McLoughlin
Not willing to live through another summer season with mosquitoes, Arverne residents piled into Bethel AME Church on Monday evening, June 5 to demand that the New York City Health Department hear their concerns about the infestation that has plagued the community for years.
Two weeks ago the Department of Environmental Protection and Army Corps of Engineers announced a $3 million preliminary study and design to alleviate mosquito infestation in Arverne by restoring parts of Jamaica Bay, therefore reducing the standing water which attracts mosquitoes. This project could be at least four years away from completion, to the dismay of many Arverne residents.
Dr. Miller of the NYC Health Department spoke to residents at a meeting co-sponsored by Community Board 14 and the Arverne Civic Association. Since restoring marshland is a long-term project, the Health Department has taken immediate steps to reduce mosquitoes in Arverne. The Health Department is dropping larvicide pellets to prevent as much larvae as possible from hatching into adult mosquitoes. Such places where larviciding efforts have and will take place are catch basins, salt marshes and other sites where mosquitoes are likely to breed.
In response to concerns of the effects of these pellets on animals and humans, Dr. Miller said, "It’s not likely to be harmful." Larvicide is not a chemical, rather a natural bacteria that is specific for mosquitoes. According to Mr. Miller, larvicide will not kill other species and will not cause respiratory problems in humans.
Miller also said that mosquitoes are being trapped in Far Rockaway to test for the West Nile Virus, a mosquito-born virus that can cause encephalitis (inflammation of the brain) or meningitis (inflammation of the lining of the brain and spinal cord). West Nile Virus is spread to humans by the bite of an infected mosquito. In last year’s outbreak, most people who were infected with West Nile Virus had no symptoms or experienced mild illness such as fever, headache and body aches before fully recovering. In some individuals, particularly the elderly, West Nile Virus can cause serious disease that affects brain tissue and can cause permanent neurological damaged. There have been no reports of the West Nile Virus carrying mosquitoes in Rockaway as of this time.
To reduce exposure to mosquitoes, the Health Department has made a number of recommendations to residents. They include:
- Make sure that doors and windows have tight-fitting screens. Repair or replace all screens in your home that have tears or holes.
- Remove all discarded tires from your property (mosquitoes lay their eggs in standing water).
- Dispose of tin cans, plastic container, ceramic pots, or similar water-holding containers.
- Make sure roof gutters drain properly. Clean clogged gutters in the spring and fall.
- Clean and chlorinate swimming pools, outdoor saunas, and hot tubs. If not in use, keep empty and covered.
- Drain water from pool covers.
- Change the water in birdbaths at least once a week.
- Eliminate any standing water that collects on your property.
Miller recommended that residents could reduce risk of being bitten by a mosquito by using insect repellent containing 10-percent or less DEET for children and no more than 30-percent DEET for adults.
Some in the Arverne community still believe government’s action is too little too late. Bernie Blum, president of Friends of Rockaway, shares this view. He said the Parks Department has continued to ignore Dubos Point, which has been a mosquito breeding ground for years. He also added that the Health Department’s publication entitled "Mosquito-Borne Disease Control Plan for Adult Mosquitoes" does not identify Dubos Point.
Dr. Miller said that the Health Department has recently added 15 employees citywide to work with the Parks Department to target mosquito areas.
Residents can attend the Health Department’s public hearing on mosquito control plans on Friday, June 23 at 7 p.m. at Queens Borough Hall, 120-55 Queens boulevard, central jury room.