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Bug board ramping up efforts

BY TIMOTHY O'HARA Citizen Staff
tohara@keysnews.com

This year’s rainy season could be one of the busiest and potentially most expensive since 2010 for the Florida Keys Mosquito Control District.

Key West recently had one documented case of dengue fever and the Mosquito Control District has been simultaneously fighting to keep another tropical disease, Zika, out of the Keys. All of this is going on while the summer rains have only just begun.

“It’s going to be an expensive year. No doubt,” Florida Keys Mosquito Control Executive Director Michael Doyle said. “We already have a high intensity program and we are going to have a very high intensity program.”

The district spent an extra $1 million each year in 2009 and 2010 battling Aedes aegypti mosquitoes in Key West, following an outbreak of dengue fever.

Mosquito Control generally conducts 10 aerial missions each summer following heavy summer rains, Doyle said. However, it might have to conduct more missions if there turns out to be more than just the one reported case of dengue. Each mission costs about $25,000, Doyle said. The agency has conducted two so far in a week in the area where the reported case of dengue occurred — near Bayview Park.

In addition, the district is using spray trucks at night more regularly, Doyle said. 

Zika and dengue could mean putting more inspectors in the field to treat underneath homes, businesses and other structures. The agency recently added two new field inspectors to the Lower Keys operations, bringing the total number of inspectors to nine, Doyle said.

“We are doing everything we can,” Mosquito Control District Board Chair Phil Goodman said. “It’s important that we don’t overreact.”

Aedes aegypti mosquitoes, which transmit dengue and Zika, are a particularly difficult mosquito to eradicate because they hide in dark, damp places, such as buckets, old tires and cisterns.

Treating cisterns in old Key West is difficult because Mosquito Control officials are not sure where they all are, Goodman said.

“The problem is that there are thousands of cisterns and we only know of about 700,” Goodman said. “These are breeding sites, and inspectors can’t find them.”