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County puts off vector control.

Byline: RANDI BJORNSTAD The Register-Guard

Because of the continuing cross-country march of the West Nile virus, Lane County may eventually join the ranks of 17 Oregon counties that now have vector control programs in place.

But it won't happen soon, Health and Human Services Director Rob Rockstroh told the county commissioners Wednesday.

"Right now, we're participating in (disease) surveillance, but we're not doing any land surveying or using pesticide" to control mosquito populations, Rockstroh said.

"We will continue what we've been doing, and we'll look at doing a plan, but not this year - the (virus) appears to be coming this way very slowly."

The fact that Oregon's "bug season" will end within the next few weeks gives the state a reprieve from hasty planning to combat a potential public health threat from the disease, which is transmitted when certain types of mosquitoes feed on the blood of infected birds, he said.

"Quite literally, as the crow flies is how this disease is spread, and usually May to September is the time that we're concerned about mosquitoes here," Rockstroh said.

However, the county will continue to participate in surveillance programs, including testing mosquitoes and dead birds as well as monitoring illnesses with symptoms that might indicate the disease, he said.

Figures released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention indicate that through Monday, the year-to-date total of deaths nationwide from the disease stood at 11, Rockstroh said, including eight in Louisiana, two in Mississippi and one in Illinois.

However, according to news reports released Tuesday, an elderly man in Kentucky also died of the disease and health officials in Missouri and Texas believe that a death in each of those states also may have been caused by the West Nile virus.

Most of the Lane County commissioners appeared to agree with Rockstroh that a wait-and-see approach made the most sense.

"We have to put everything in perspective," Chairman Bill Dwyer said. "Every year about 20,000 people die from the flu, and just a few from the West Nile virus."

Educating the public about getting rid of standing pools of water on their property would go a long way toward ensuring that mosquitoes don't breed in numbers sufficient to endanger the county's population, Rockstroh said.

Many people throughout the county "collect" old tires, and just getting rid of the water in those would help reduce the likelihood of mosquito infestations, he said.

Because of the damage that can be caused to plants and animals in wetlands areas, as well as the adverse impact on human populations, "spraying is the last thing we want to do," he said.

In other parts of the state where mosquitoes constitute a serious nuisance, spraying has been commonplace.

Lane County eliminated its vector control program for budget reasons more than 15 years ago.
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Title Annotation:Mosquitoes: Commissioners decide to take a wait-and-see approach with confronting the threat of the West Nile virus.; Health
Publication:The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)
Date:Aug 22, 2002
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