Sanders, DOH Host Discussion Of Mosquito Problem
The Rockaway mosquito population seems to be growing year by year – some of the worst places being Arverne and Edgemere – and with the growth in numbers of mosquitoes, the health threat to those on the peninsula grows as well.
Last Thursday, Councilman James Sanders Jr. partnered with the Arverne Civic Association and the Addabbo Family Health Center to host a community meeting to discuss the problem.
“Every year the mosquito problem in the Rockaways seems to get worse,” said Sanders prior to the meeting at the Addabbo Center in Arverne. “In addition to the simple nuisance they represent, mosquitoes can be carriers of dangerous diseases. The threat posed by mosquitoes to our quality of life is very real. We owe it to the people of our district to make sure that we are doing everything we can to keep them safe and keep them comfortable during the hot, humid summer months, when mosquitoes are out in force.”
Attending the meeting was a representative from the Department of Health, Mario Merlino, who is the assistant commissioner for the Office of Vector Pest Control. Merlino described the steps being taken to fight the mosquito population throughout the city.
Larvicide, which is used to prevent mosquitoes from hatching, can be distributed from the air and by applying it to catch basins in the city. All catch basins in the city are treated four times a year. Adulticide spraying is done to kill adult mosquitoes after evidence of West Nile Virus appears in two consecutive testings of mosquitoes in an area.
In the last few weeks Rockaway had one trap site test positive for the virus. Merlino explained that, “This week it tested negative. Right now it does not meet the criteria for spraying.”
He did say he believed if there is one more positive result, the criteria for the area to be sprayed would be met. There has not been a spraying for West Nile Virus in Rockaway since 2008.
Mosquitoes get West Nile from biting birds with the disease. Merlino said that because mosquitoes in Rockaway tend not to bite birds, they tend to test positive less often for the disease.
Another method to fight mosquitoes is mosquito magnets. Sanders, who allocated $50,000 for mosquito magnets in Rockaway, put forward the idea of putting magnets around Rockaway to form a protective shield.
According to the assistant commissioner, more than one million mosquitoes have been collected from 10 magnets in Rockaway. He also said there will probably be truck spraying in the city and the Rockaways are on the verge of qualifying for such treatment.
Residents were not satisfied with the criteria for spraying.
Rico Reed, an architect who lives in Arverne, said, “We are under siege with the mosquitoes coming into our homes.”
Another resident who lives next to the bay said, “My daughter is so bitten up she bleeds.”
Al Jackson said that, “Special attention needs to be paid to this peninsula. There are small pockets of water everywhere. … We don’t need for our kids to start dying to address it.”
Eugene Johnson told Merlino, “From your own statements this community is being held hostage. I don’t know why we have to wait. It’s not a nuisance; it’s a hazardous condition. … We’re right off the bay. If funds are available from the councilman’s allocation, then let him tell you what to do with it.”
To those who were more worried about other diseases than just West Nile Virus, Merlino said, “We do testing for those types of things.”
The DOH representative suggested several things that residents can do to protect themselves such as wearing long sleeves and using repellent, both of which he was told by residents do not work. He also suggested buying mosquito magnets from places like Home Depot.
To calls for spraying Merlino repeated, “We don’t spray on the severity of mosquitoes. We look at the number of mosquitoes and the West Nile present. … To do nuisance spraying takes away from areas with West Nile.”
While spraying can cause conditions such as asthma, Sanders believes it is time for action and the funds he allocated for mosquito relief must be used.
“Once a situation gets like this it is out of control, and we got to do something,” said the councilman. “We must have adulticide spraying and kill lava so it doesn’t come up.”
Both Sanders and The Wave have asked for an accounting of the funding he allocated to fight the mosquito problem in Rockaway.
There have been two larvicide treatments around Rockaway and two more are due before the season is over and testing will continue. Sanders also suggested another meeting be set up soon to continue the discussion.