West End's commercial corridors show signs of care and investment. Credit: Donita Pendered

By David Pendered

Fulton County is seeking to hire a company to combat the West Nile virus and will continue to target two hotspots, Vine City and English Avenue, both of which are near the future Falcons stadium.

Skin rash is a symptom of infection with the West Nile virus. Credit: medicalpicturesinfo.com
Skin rash is a symptom of infection with the West Nile virus. Credit: medicalpicturesinfo.com

Fulton County became aggressive in fighting mosquitoes, which carry the disease, following the death of an elderly Vine City resident in 2001, said Kevin Jones, Fulton County’s deputy director of environmental health services.

“We decided to do everything in our power to make sure that never happens again,” Jones said.

The county does conduct its mosquito management program throughout the county, in addition to the two hotspots near the future stadium, Jones said.

West Nile virus would appear to be a non-issue in an area such as metro Atlanta, which has so much impervious surface that mosquitoes would seem to have difficulty finding standing water in which to breed.

In terms of only paved roads, the five core counties have 14.5 percent of the state’s total paved mileage of 89,203, according to a 2009 report from the Georgia Department of Transportation. That number doesn’t begin to account for local roads, parking lots, and other impervious surfaces.

But metro Atlanta does have many places where water can collect and mosquitoes can breed. One such type of area is the catch basins or storm sewers that handle storm water runoff. Jones said the stadium neighborhoods have a relatively high number of these. The county has already treated them.

Mapping services provide information about the location of mosquitoes carrying the West Nile virus. Credit: diseasemaps.usgs.gov
Mapping services provide information about the location of mosquitoes carrying the West Nile virus. Credit: diseasemaps.usgs.gov

“We did English Avenue and Vine City in March,” Jones said. “They have a lot of catch basins or storm sewers. The larvacide we use is in a briquette that we throw into the storm sewer. There’s always going to remain at least a little residual water, and that will keep any mosquitoes from breeding.”

The active ingredient in the briquette lasts five months, Jones said. The product is Natular larvicide, which was recognized in 2010 by the U.S. EPA Presidential Green Chemistry Challenge Awards, according to a statement released by the manufacturer, Clarke.

Natular is not a petroleum product and all the ingredients used to create the briquettes have been approved for use by the USDA in the production of certified organic products, according to the statement.

Fulton County still traps mosquitoes and has them tested for the West Nile virus, Jones said. Many local governments have stopped paying to have mosquitoes tested and that affects the accuracy of disease mapping programs, such as the one run by the U.S. Geological Survey.

The USGS map shows that in 2013, there were 150 cumulative mosquito infections in Georgia. There were nine in Fulton County and 16 in DeKalb County. Chatham County appeared to have the highest number of infections, at 94, but the map notes that not all jurisdictions perform surveillance and some may not have reported positive results.

Jones said Fulton County will spend more than $300,000 on its mosquito program this year. That amount will provide:

  • Treatment of 12,000 catch basins;
  • Mosquito surveillance for 30 trap sites;
  • Limited treatment of adult mosquitoes by spraying.
  • GIS mapping functions.
  • Treatment at the county’s senior centers.

Thursday is the deadline for responses to the request for proposals. The only vendor that signed the attendance sheet at the pre-bid conference was Clarke, the manufacturer of Natular.

In addition to the treatment program, Fulton County also conducts an education outreach program to inform residents how to protect themselves from being bitten by mosquitoes and the symptoms of West Nile virus.

“And starting in July, we’ll have those 30 traps, countywide,” Jone said. “If any of the mosquitoes pulled from those traps test positive for West Nile, we’ll go to every house and business in a half-mile radius of that trap and give out information.”

David Pendered, Managing Editor, is an Atlanta journalist with more than 30 years experience reporting on the region’s urban affairs, from Atlanta City Hall to the state Capitol. Since 2008, he has written...

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