City reviews mosquito plans in light of Zika

Published 12:00 pm Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Oxford residents can help city officials battle mosquitos that could potentially carry serious viruses like West Nile virus and a newer threat, the Zika virus.

“Check around your house and make sure there’s no flowerpots or old tires that are collecting standing water,” said Oxford’s Emergency Management Coordinator Jimmy Allgood.

However, Alderwoman Janice Antonow would like to see more done to make sure the city’s many retention ponds don’t become massive breeding grounds for mosquitos.

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“Developers are building retention ponds all over town,” she said Tuesday. “Most are stag- nant water and we can become the Mississippi capital of mos- quitos if we don’t do something.”

Antonow suggested requiring the developers to use dunks — a form of Bacillus thuringiensis v. israelensis in a solid form. As they float in the water where you put them, they slowly release the BTI on the water surface.

The BTI then gradually settles to the bottom where the mosquito larva eats it and die. Mosquito dunks are generally about 2 inches in diameter and a half-inch thick, with a small hole in the center. BTI does not harm people, pets, birds, fish or plants.

Current plan

Currently the city sprays parks and city-owned property early in the morning for mosquitoes.

However, that’s not going to do much against the mosquito that carries the Zika virus.

“They come out to feed during the middle of the day,” Allgood said. “We can’t spray during the middle of the day.”

Assistant City Engineer Reanna Mayoral said the city could write something into their storm water ordinance requiring developers to make sure they have an approved mosquito control system in place, however she said having it done under the health and safety umbrella, which falls under Allgood, would allow something to be put into place quicker.

Allgood is going to research how other cities handle similar circumstances and check retention bonds for levels of larva.

“The dunks are pretty inexpensive,” he said. “You can get them at most local stores for about $2.”

On Monday the World Health Organization declared the Zika virus and its suspected link to birth defects an international public health emergency, a rare move that signals the seriousness of the outbreak and gives countries new tools to fight it, accord- ing to the New York Times.

An outbreak of the Zika virus, which is transmitted by mosquitoes, was detected in Brazil in May and has since moved into more than 20 countries in Latin America, including two new ones announced Monday: Costa Rica and Jamaica.

The main worry is over the virus’ possible link to microcephaly, a condition that causes babies to be born with unusually small heads and, in the vast majority of cases, damaged brains. Reported cases of micro- cephalyare rising sharply in Brazil, though researchers have yet to establish that Zika causes the condition.

“There has been no cases in the United States yet that have originated here,” Allgood said. “So far, the cases here have been from people who traveled out- side of the country.”

That doesn’t mean the mosquito can’t find its way into the United States and taking precaution is the best defense, according to the Center for Disease Control, which recommends using mosquito repellent whenever going outside in heavily wooded or grassy areas and wearing long-sleeved shirts and long pants.