09/28/06 — State test refutes West Nile claim

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State test refutes West Nile claim

By Matthew Whittle
Published in News on September 28, 2006 1:56 PM

Mosquitoes taken from Seymour Johnson Air Force Base have tested negative for West Nile virus, state health officials said Wednesday.

Preliminary tests last week by base officials found several pools of common woodland mosquitoes that were considered possible carriers of the disease. They were sent to the state Division of Public Health for testing.

But more intensive tests at the state laboratory in Raleigh proved otherwise.

"Those are more detailed, more sensitive tests and they can tell if there's actually something there and those were negative," said Carol Schriber, a spokeswoman for the N.C. Division of Public Health.

In fact, she said, the only confirmed cases of West Nile Virus in North Carolina this year, whether in birds, horses, people or mosquitos, were in two sentinel chickens in May -- one in Craven County and one in Beaufort County.

Capt. Tana Stevenson, a spokesman for the 4th Fighter Wing, confirmed the state's results.

"We were notified by N.C. Health Department Pest Management that our mosquitoes were, in fact, confirmed as negative for West Nile Virus by the NC Health Department Laboratory," she said.

That is good news for people in Wayne County but city and county officials say the threat of mosquito-borne diseases remains, and they urged the public to continue to take precautions.

Recent wet weather has resulted in heavy infestations of mosquitoes. Many area residents say they are the worst they have ever seen.

"It does seem to be (worse)," Wayne County Health Department Director Jim Roosen said. "We've had more rain so there's more opportunities for mosquitoes to breed. We're getting a lot more complaints."

"Last week, I got more calls about mosquitos than I have since I've been here," Goldsboro City Manager Joe Huffman said.

City crews have been spraying insecticide all summer but they have stepped up their efforts in recent days, using two trucks, twice a day for five hours at a time.

The spray, however, only kills adult mosquitoes, and it takes about seven days to cover the entire city.

Prevention measures, which both the city and county practice, are more practical, Roosen said.

"We feel we get more bang for the buck with the mosquito surveillance and larvacide (BT donuts available at any hardware store)," he said. "A lot of it is just responding to citizen complaints.

"Once we get out there, we can find out where the mosquitoes are coming from and once we do, we can keep track of those and go back and larvacide them again."

But both city and county officials emphasized that local governments cannot control mosquitoes without help from residents. People need to do whatever they can to prevent water from accumulating and providing the insects with places to breed.

"I need help. Three inches of standing water for 100 feet can breed 1,000 mosquitoes in a week," Goldsboro Chief Building Inspector Ed Cianfarra told residents at Monday night's Meadow Lane-Oak Forest neighborhood meeting. "If you can take care your standing water, I'll take care of the ditches."

"What I would like to see is people taking care of their own properties," Roosen said.

Common breeding grounds are bird baths, tarps over woodpiles, old tires, flower pots and saucers, pet bowls and clogged gutters.

Roosen said it is almost impossible to eliminate the pests and urged residents to protect themselves by wearing long sleeves and long pants when practical and to use repellent.

"People need to protect themselves," Roosen said.

He said residents should avoid being outdoors during the hours that mosquitoes are most active, at dawn and at dusk. Wearing light-colored clothing also helps, he said.

Dr. George Silver Jr., veterinarian at Wayne Veterinary Hospital, said horse owners should remain vigilant - getting their animals vaccinated, using fly spray on them and keeping their living areas free of breeding grounds. Equine encephalitis can result from mosquito bites and can prove fatal to horses.