In the Greater Los Angeles area, where backyard swimming pools are common, the county’s Vector Control District is getting an alarming number of calls about the abundance of mosquitoes breeding in swimming pools abandoned to foreclosure. They’ve also seen a spike in cases of West Nile virus this year, although this is earlier than usual for the virus’s typical summertime appearance.
This past May, the Greater Los Angeles County Vector Control District got 288 requests for mosquito control, topping last May’s 145 calls. Thus far, 18 counties in California have documented cases of West Nile virus, doubling last year’s nine cases documented by the same date.
Foreclosures of homes have skyrocketed over the last year in California. The rate of foreclosures in the San Fernando Valley alone is up more than 200% from this time last year. In Los Angeles County, there are an estimated 4,000 homes with swimming pools thought to be abandoned due to foreclosure.
And it isn’t just the foreclosed homes that are becoming hazardous to the health of the neighborhood as far as mosquitoes are concerned. Many Californians struggling with finances are finding themselves able to maintain the appearance of their front lawns while neglecting their back yards and their pools.
While officials from county and state health departments have no way of knowing what to expect for the coming summer months, they report some dramatic increases in incidence of West Nile virus this year.
Even though no reports have been filed yet about humans being infected with the virus, the cases of the disease in birds has gone from 25 to 100 in just one year. Over all, a small percentage of mosquitoes carry the virus, but those that do carry it get it from feeding on birds already infected with it. They then pass the virus on to people.
The American Red Cross screens blood donors for a history of infection from the West Nile virus even though it cannot be passed from one person to another. In 2006, only 14 donors tested positive for presence of the virus. In 2006, 29 donors tested positive.
Public health officials use aerial photography to locate abandoned pools and calls from concerned neighbors are becoming more common. To combat the mosquitoes, vector control agents prefer using the mosquitofish to feed on the mosquito larvae. Said to be worth their weight in gold for this reason, the agents say the fish attack the larvae with a Pacman-like intensity.
In spite of the growing need to treat these abandoned and neglected pools, vector control agents are caught between the need to protect public health at the same time they must preserve the privacy of the home owner, whether that be a private individual, a bank, or some other lending institution. To help avoid privacy violations, agents are working more and more often on Saturdays when the home’s occupants are most likely to be home.
Source: LA Daily News
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