Friday, Jun. 22, 2012
Unkept pools a big concern in West Nile abatement
By Thaddeus Miller / email@example.com
Mosquitoes breed quickly in untreated swimming pools on the Westside, and the four neglected pools reported in Los Banos, the three in Gustine and the one in Santa Nella make Merced County's top mosquito abatement official uneasy.
"I'm sure it's just a fraction of what's out there," said Allan Inman, director of the Merced County Mosquito Abatement District. There were no reports of neglected pools in Dos Palos, but that doesn't mean there aren't any.
With a shrinking budget and a small staff, Inman said he relies on anonymous reports from the neighbors of homes with fetid pools. He said he's not looking to fine homeowners or get them in trouble; he wants to treat the water and kill the pests carrying West Nile virus.
"Let us get in there and do our job," Inman said. "We need to head the population off."
Inman said though the abatement district has never found a case of West Nile virus within the city of Los Banos, mosquitoes have tested positive in the surrounding wetlands. West Nile is carried by mosquitoes that have drilled for blood on infected birds. It's an extremely dangerous disease for horses, but also can be fatal to people.
Since 2009, in Merced County there have been six human cases of West Nile virus, six in horses, 31 in trapped mosquitoes and 33 in birds, according to the abatement district Web site.
Last month, a bird tested positive in Atwater. This week, the district began focusing on a two-mile radius around the area where the bird was found.
Inman said the abatement district takes calls regarding dead birds. After taking a description from the caller, the district may respond to test the bird. He said he also wants to keep track of where the birds are most commonly found.
"We have a susceptible bird population," Inman said.
Thus far, no mosquitoes have tested positive for West Nile virus in the county, according to Inman. But, that could change.
Los Banos Fire Chief Chet Guintini, who is in charge of code enforcement, said the pools behind abandoned homes have been an issue.
"We've dealt with a lot of them over the last few years," Guintini said.
However, he said, many of the abandoned pools have dried up and are not an issue anymore.
That leaves homeowners who do not maintain their pools. Guintini said calls to code enforcement about unkempt pools are directed to the abatement district.
To report pools or any standing water to the Merced County Mosquito Abatement District, call (209) 722-1527.
To report dead birds to the California Department of Public Health go to http://westnile.ca.gov/report_wnv.php or call 1-877-968-2473.
The abatement district recommends staying indoors while mosquitoes are most active at dawn and dusk, wearing long sleeves and pants and using bug spray containing DEET.
Enterprise reporter Thaddeus Miller can be reached at (209) 388-6562 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.