The Andover Board of Health will hold a special meeting tonight, Thursday, to decide if officials should spray insecticide in town, following the discovery of West Nile virus-carrying mosquitoes here.
"I'm a bit concerned with the time of year we're finding the mosquitoes," said Tom Carbone, Andover health director. "We don't want to see the virus amplify in the adult mosquito population."
Mosquitoes testing positive for West Nile virus were first found July 18 on the Andover-Lawrence line, near Corbett Street. The Northeast Massachusetts Mosquito & Wetlands Management District has since deployed additional carbon dioxide-emitting traps to catch mosquitoes elsewhere in town. Results won't be available from these new traps until Friday, after the town's Board of Health meeting, said Carbone. A total of 11 traps have been set in town at different times during the past two weeks.
The Board of Health will meet at 6 p.m. in the first floor conference room of Town Offices, 36 Bartlet St.
Jack Card, director of the mosquito control district, believes the town should spray in the Corbett Street area.
"I just mentioned doing a targeted spray along the border with Lawrence," he said. "If we've found its moved into town more on Friday, we may want to do a townwide spray. That's why we put the extra traps out."
Carbone said the board could take a vote tonight contingent on what the test results show, for instance to allow or expand the spraying if the information available on Friday shows additional West Nile-carrying mosquitoes.
"We'll be able to give them some options that they can approve," said Carbone.
Card believes the mild winter helped provide favorable conditions for West Nile carrying mosquitoes, which he said tend to like drier conditions and live in man-made containers such as catch basins and bird baths rather than swamps. Massachusetts communities are seeing positive West Nile cases earlier in the season than is typical.
"It just seems like this might be the year that it makes the headlines," said Card. "We've got a bit more time before we get a killing frost."
If board members elect to spray insecticide, Card said the mosquito control district would use a product called Duet, which he said is similar to Anvil, the product previously used in town. "It has an agitation factor to it that stirs the mosquito up so they come in contact with it," he said. "Within a few minutes it dissipates and goes away."
Though it is rare, West Nile virus can be fatal for those with a compromised immune system.
"For most people you are not going to feel well [if you get West Nile], but it has been known to be fatal to young people and older people. We're most concerned for them, for people who are immuno-compromised, who would have trouble fighting off infection," said Carbone.
Andover sprayed insecticide just last year to combat West Nile-carrying mosquitoes, treating a mile radius around two trap locations that had positive tests, he said.
The city of Methuen also has been advised that a sample of mosquitoes from that community tested positive for the virus. It began spraying citywide on Thursday. Both communities are members of the Northeast Massachusetts Mosquito & Wetlands Management District.
RELEASE FROM TOWN ON MOSQUITOES
Residents throughout the Merrimack Valley are advised to review their properties for any standing water, and to empty the water whenever possible. Birdbaths, children's toys, stored tires, and clogged gutters are common areas where water can pool. Also, residents should ensure that air conditioner drip pans are empty, and that water features in landscaping are aerated with pumps.
Persons who find themselves outside at dusk and other times of high mosquito activity should continue to protect themselves from bites by wearing long pants and long sleeved shirts, and using a mosquito repellent with DEET; always follow the label on the repellent.