One of the first things to recognize is that mosquito control is a year-round public health profession and its branch of science is Culicidae Entomology. Mankind’s battle with the mosquito has existed for centuries. This persistent insect caused the first building of the Panama Canal to fail, when thousands were infected by mosquito-borne yellow fever. Millions more have died in other parts of the world from West Nile virus, malaria and dengue-virus. In the U.S., mosquitoes have infected many people with encephalitis, causing death or permanent disability. Mosquito-borne diseases cause more than a million deaths each year around the world.
Closer to home, everyone has had the experience of being driven indoors or retreating from a picnic in the park because the mosquitoes decided it was time to feast. Clearly put, mosquitoes continue to be a major health and nuisance/comfort problem.
An Integrated Pest Management program (IPM) is the proven approach to mosquito control by reducing mosquito populations and, with it, the threat to public health and discomfort. This multi step process is a systematic approach to control all phases of mosquito growth and infestation. The information that follows provides a general picture of the activities that are needed for the program over the course of a year.
PRE- OR OFF-SEASON ACTIVITIES:
Many activities of the mosquito control program are normally carried out in the “off season” when mosquitoes are not normally active – usually during the winter. These activities include staff training and certification; equipment purchase, repair and calibration; budgeting and other financial activities; and analysis of the previous year’s data. In some areas, source reduction activities are done at this time. Much of the information collected during mosquito control activities consists of maps, tables, and charts. Most of the information is linked to a physical location. For this reason, it is vital to have a mapping program available to the mosquito control program. This can be done by coordinating with another city or county department that already has a geographical information systems (GIS) department. Franklin County Mosquito Control District partnered with Benton County Mosquito Control District to develop a custom mapping and tracking program, “Mosquito M.D.”.
Surveillance, as applied to vector-borne disease, is the organized monitoring of levels of virus activity, vector populations, and infections in vertebrate hosts, human cases, weather, and other factors to detect or predict changes in the transmission dynamics of arboviruses. Since all of this information is rarely collected by a single agency, it is extremely important that the various data-collecting agencies actively communicate and exchange information.
In some respects, a mosquito control program can be compared to a military campaign: it is crucial to know the enemy. The more that is known about the important species in the area, the more likely they can be effectively and economically controlled.
This is the most visible part of the program, but its success is strongly dependent on attention to the points covered above.
In early-season activities, as above, the surveillance program gathers the intelligence data needed to combat the mosquitoes and prevent disease transmission.
Virus assay kits for testing dead birds and mosquito pools are used in the District’s in-house insect laboratory. Mosquito infection rates are an important indicator of a disease threat. The state health laboratory is also available to provide this service. Infection in domestic animals (horses, etc.) and humans is an indicator of impending trouble and an indication that immediate action is required.
MID- AND LATE-SEASON ACTIVITIES:
During this period even more effort is dedicated to larviciding and, as needed, adulticiding. Disease surveillance data guides the level of mosquito control, especially control of adult mosquitoes. Public education and close contact with media resources is continued. As mosquito populations decline with the onset of cold weather, our program returns to the pre-season/off-season routine, in preparation for the next year.
ELEMENTS OF A COMPREHENSIVE PROGRAM:
INFORM THE PUBLIC:
Mosquito control programs need the support of an informed public. Many of the successful strategies for control involve individuals, their families and their neighborhoods. The public also has concerns about the problems related to the mosquito populations and about insecticides and spraying. Keeping the public informed leads to a stronger, better supported program that is tailored to the community and its values. Our communications plan includes public education about preventing the breeding of mosquitoes, personal protection guidance, and the activities and success of the District and other agencies involved is critical to the success of our program.
DEFINE THE GOALS FOR PUBLIC INFORMATION:
The public information challenges of mosquito control are many. Mosquito control includes two areas of responsibility: individual and public. Areas of individual responsibility relate to personal actions residents can take to reduce personal risk from mosquitoes, such as eliminating breeding pools on their property and using insect repellants. Public responsibility relates to the development and maintenance of community-wide mosquito control activities and programs.
Public information strategies will vary based on which area of responsibility is being impacted and the goal to be achieved. The information needs vary depending on whether the goal is to:
A respected spokesperson should be identified. This may be the local health official or another public official with credibility and profile in the community. The spokesperson(s) could come from academia, the medical community, the local hospital, or public health. The lead agency at the local level will want to designate a public information officer or team to develop materials, inform the press, respond to questions, and network with information officers in related organizations, such as emergency medical services, hospitals, county or city manager’s offices, the state, etc.
Strategies to inform the public can include press education prior to the mosquito season; educational meetings with policy-makers such as city councils and county commissioners; preparation of materials for the public; web-site development; plans for a hotline and recorded messages; and regular information to the public about mosquito surveillance and disease incidence.
CREATE EFFECTIVE MESSAGES:
A proactive approach will involve developing a simple message, easily understood that resonates and is memorable. Many states have already initiated public health campaigns such as the 2003 “Fight the Bite” campaign. When developing campaigns, it is important to have a unified message across the state. Other public health campaigns may serve as models for community awareness. A successful campaign:
INFORM THE PUBLIC – PLANNING AND ACTION CHECKLIST: