West Nile virus cases at zero, Richland County working to keep it that way

Taking care of mosquitoes this summer

RICHLAND COUNTY, SC (WIS) - Richland County and City of Columbia officials say the areas are West Nile free, for now.

Both say they have been working to make sure mosquito populations stay low. The City of Columbia officials say they have been working since the spring on this initiative. The goal for them is to kill mosquito larvae before they turn into adults.

One of the methods used are larvicide tablets, or sprays that when put into water, kill the larvae. The CDC says: "when used according to product label instructions, larvicides do not harm people, pets, or the environment."

Both county officials and city officials say this move is important since both have had to deal with their own confirmed cases of West Nile in the last two years.

In 2016, officials say mosquito populations in the Shandon area tested positive for the virus. In 2017, officials say the virus was once again found in mosquitoes in the Shandon area and from a dead bird in downtown Columbia. They believe the vegetation and occasional pool of stagnant water could contribute to mosquito populations.

Reports in 2017 were also received in the county "off Broad River Rd. in the St. Andrews area, as well as, Irmo at several locations, about positive birds & suspicious birds. (Birds may act as an early indicator of viral presence.) While monitoring those sites and providing treatment to the areas, we received a report of positive WNV activity in the northeast portion of the county. A few weeks later we received a report of positive activity in Forest Acres. The positive activity continued through the season until November," according to Tammy Brewer, Richland County Vector Control Director.

The story is different so far this year. Richard Blackmon, the chief code enforcement officer for Columbia, says they have not used "spray trucks," which are considered a last resort and a short-term remedy.

"We only spray adulticide in response to a positive test for mosquito borne illness," Blackmon said.

"What we've found is that, that will kill the mosquitoes for right then that are flying around, but there's no residual effect so once that's dissipated, you have all those mosquitoes that weren't flying around come right back. And also the problem with spraying regularly is that you have the potential for creating chemical resistant mosquitoes and that's what we're scared of."

Blackmon says to compliment their mosquito reduction efforts, there are simple steps on your property you can take to help keep your family safe.

"If you see a cup that you left on the porch that's got some rain water in it, before you know it a thousand mosquitoes could have come out of that little cup. So make every effort to dump it out.  Put it in the trash can. Flower pots that you're not using, turn them over so that it's not collecting water," Blackmon said.

Richland County officials say you can report mosquitoes by calling 803-929-6000. For reports in the City of Columbia, you are asked to call 803-545-3430.

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