2014 Mosquito Surveillance and Control in the Berkshires

Mayor Bianchi announced that the 2014 season for mosquito surveillance and control has officially started in Pittsfield.

Bianchi said, “There are many questions and concerns when it comes to surveying and controlling the mosquito population.  It is important that residents have an understanding of what this service entails, the purpose of spraying mosquitos and the steps to take when spraying is occurring in their area.”

Rather than spraying general areas, the Berkshire County Mosquito Control Program keeps continual watch on the mosquito population in Berkshire County.  By monitoring the larvae and adult mosquito population, BCMCP is able to confirm the presence of two mosquito borne viruses, West Nile Virus (WNV) and Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE).  Once a virus is detected, spraying will begin in that targeted area.

The presences of these viruses have been confirmed in past summers, which is why the BCMCP continues to be crucial part of Pittsfield, and Berkshire County.

Mayor Bianchi added, “It is important that we start early and continually monitor the mosquito larvae and adult mosquitos throughout the spring and summer. This monitoring helps to reduce the amount of spraying that is done in Pittsfield.”

Once the a viruses is detected among a mosquito population, an automated mapping system, ARC Geographic Information System Technology, helps personnel to better assess the infected area. The information generated from this tool helps BCMCP measure, identify, and record surveillance and plan treatment strategies.

“After detection, the use of the CodeRED system is key, in that the people residing in the targeted area will get a phone call alerting them about the detected virus and the plan in place to address the mosquitos.” commented Bianchi.

Scheduled spraying is done after dusk when mosquitoes are most active and people are inside. The product used in the truck mounted spray application breaks down quickly and does not leave a toxic residue.  The US EPA has evaluated the products for their safety in mosquito control and determined that they do not pose an unreasonable risk to birds or mammals and it is not used where fish or bees could be exposed.

Gina Armstrong, the Director of Health, stated, “West Nile Virus illness can range from a mild fever to more serious disease like encephalitis or meningitis.  Symptoms may also include body aches, nausea, vomiting, swollen lymph glands, skin rash and headache. People over age 50 have higher risk of developing one of these severe mosquito borne illnesses that can last several weeks.  Although rare, a EEE illness can cause death or permanent disability. Everyone can reduce the chances of becoming ill from the bite of an infected mosquito by covering their skin and applying repellant as directed.”

Armstrong added, “In Pittsfield, the decision to spray is based upon a phased response to surveillance data and an elevated risk of virus exposure; spraying requires Board of Health approval and will generally occur on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday evenings. When the Board of Health approves a spray, residents will be given two to three days’ notice in advance of any spraying. There will be a newspaper release and a CodeRED notification.”

To sign up for CodeRED Emergency Notification System go to www.cityofpittsfield.org and you will find it on the right hand side of the screen.

For more information:

To request no-spraying on your property you can call the BCMCP or send a request via email including name and property address, berkmc@bcn.net. For more information contact the Berkshire County Mosquito Control Project at 413-447-9808 or visit The City of Pittsfield website at www.cityofpittsfield.org or the Massachusetts Department of Public Health website at http://www.mass.gov/dph/wnv.

Personal protection is the best defense against mosquito borne illness:

  • When outdoors, wear long pants, a long-sleeved shirt and socks.
  • Use a repellent with DEET according to the instructions on the product label
  • Keep mosquitoes out of your house by repairing holes in screens  and making sure screens fit tightly to doors and windows
  • Schedule outdoor events to avoid the hours between dusk and dawn, when mosquitoes are most active
  • Remove areas of standing water around your home to eliminate sources of mosquito breeding
    • Mosquitoes can begin to multiply in any puddle or standing water that last for more than four days.
    • Change the water in birdbaths every few days
    • Turn over plastic wading pools and wheelbarrows when not in use
    • Clean clogged roof gutters, remove leaves and debris that may prevent drainage of rain water.
    • Remove standing water from pool covers
    • Look around outside your house for containers and other things that might collect water and turn them over, regularly empty them, or dispose of them.