Dutchess County News Release

For Immediate Release

For More Information:

William R. Steinhaus
Dutchess County Executive
(845) 486-2000

Michael C. Caldwell, MD, MPH, Commissioner of Health
(845) 486-3432

February 10, 2000

County Unveils Mosquito Prevention Plan

The Dutchess County Health Department announced its plans to protect the community against mosquito-borne disease. Commissioner of Health Dr. Michael C. Caldwell outlined the plan to key committees of the Dutchess County Legislature today. The Legislature is considering the Departmentís request for an additional $171,990 in funding for its new Arthropod Borne Disease Prevention Program. Mosquitos and ticks are scientifically classified as arthropods. The program emphasizes public education and surveillance rather than the application of pesticides, although ground-based spraying is not ruled out. During last yearís County Budget process the Legislature had appropriated $200,000 in the Health Departmentís FY 2000 Budget for a mosquito program and the Health Departmentís request for additional funds makes the total net cost to the County almost $257,000 after applying $115,065 in anticipated revenue to the County from New York State Aid.

Commissioner Caldwell stressed that the Health Departmentís plan does not yet include traditional methods of mosquito control such as spraying insecticides, but emphasizes raising the awareness of home and business owners regarding how to eliminate breeding sites of disease carrying mosquitoes. The Culex species of mosquitoes are thought to be the principal vector of disease transmission for West Nile virus which first appeared in this hemisphere last Fall in the New York metropolitan region. Sixty human cases and seven deaths occurred in that outbreak. Culex mosquitoes breed in highly polluted waters such as open sewage treatment facilities and storm water catch basins. They also frequently breed in artificial containers such as old tires, unchlorinated swimming pools, clogged roof gutters, rain or burning barrels, and unused childrenís wading pools.

"Every person in Dutchess County can make a difference in the fight against disease by eliminating breeding sites often found around homes or businesses," Dr. Caldwell said. "Our program stresses individual participation and community mobilization to reduce populations of the target species. By raising the consciousness of the public we hope to stimulate collective action to safely reduce the places where these mosquito breed that we may unknowingly create around our homes or businesses," the Health Commissioner explained. "Education becomes a method of control without the use of pesticides," Dr. Caldwell said. The Health Department intends to conduct an intensive educational campaign utilizing television and radio as well as mass mailing of educational material. It plans to reach out to community groups and environmental organizations as well. The Health Departmentís plan also calls for an extensive system of mosquito, tick, and bird surveillance throughout the County from April through November, or longer, depending on weather conditions. The Department issued a Request for Proposals in late December and received a proposal from Hudsonia, Ltd., a not-for-profit research and environmental education institute located on the Bard College campus in northern Dutchess. Hudsoniaís Science Director, Dr. Erik Kiviat, will head the arboviral surveillance program under a $303,000 contract with Dutchess County. Founded in 1981, Hudsonia, Ltd. has provided scientific research and technical assistance to numerous public and private organizations including the Federal Environmental Protection Agency and the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation. Hudsonia plans to hire a Medical Entomologist, two seasonal Technicians, and a Research Assistant to work on the Countyís program under Dr. Kiviat. Hudsonia hopes to begin implementing the arboviral surveillance program as early as March if the contract is signed by the County.

Hudsoniaís role will be to collect and analyze data on mosquitoes, ticks, wild birds and perhaps sentinel poultry flocks so that the Health Department has up-to-date, county-wide, scientific information as a basis for its decisions about public education and mosquito control interventions.

During the outbreak of West Nile Virus last Fall the Health Department was in touch with the Dutchess County Environmental Management Council (EMC). Earlier this week the Commissioner of Health and senior staff responsible for the new program met with Barbara Kendall, Executive Director of the EMC and staff to discuss the plan for preventing mosquito-borne disease and minimizing chemical interventions. "We agreed that our desired goal was to avoid or minimize the use of pesticides to control mosquitoes and to find out if there is scientific evidence of the presence of arboviral diseases in our County," said Dr. Caldwell. "It may become necessary at some point to employ chemical control methods from ground-based equipment to reduce the population of vector species. We just donít know enough about emerging arboviruses like West Nile Virus right now," the Health Commissioner explained. Dr. Caldwell said the EMC endorsed the Health Departmentís initiative and representatives of the environmental agency were present at the Legislative meeting today to support the current proposal. The EMC will be collaborating with the Health Department regarding the development of educational material for the program and assisting in the distribution of informational literature to community organizations and municipalities.

Dutchess County Health Department senior staff have been working as members of the New York State Department of Healthís various workgroups established in early winter to develop the Stateís plan of action for the coming mosquito season. Dr. Caldwell indicated that Dutchess Countyís plan will integrate well with the New York State plan and guidelines. The Stateís mosquito campaign may be unveiled next month.


2000 Press Releases