County crafts mosquito battle plan

Elkhart Truth file photoTargeted mosquito control using aerial spraying in specific areas of the county is planned for this week in Elkhart County to protect residents from eastern equine encephalitis, health officials announced Monday.  

GOSHEN — Elkhart County health officials plan to spray for mosquitoes this week in an effort to curb a rare but deadly disease. 

The Elkhart County Health Department and the Indiana State Department of Health have been working together to monitor eastern equine encephalitis (EEE) activity in Elkhart County. So far this year, a total of eight horses have tested positive for EEE, along with one mosquito sample pool in Elkhart County.

Due to the detection of EEE activity in Elkhart County and the occurrence of human EEE cases in nearby Michigan counties, the Elkhart County Commissioners decided to perform targeted mosquito control utilizing aerial spraying to help protect residents from EEE, according to a release issued Monday by the county.

While rare, EEE virus can cause serious illness and has a fatality rate of about 33 percent in people.

The horse cases are concentrated south of Bristol and west of Middlebury in an area often referred to as the “fruit hills,” the release said. The positive mosquito pool was located in the northwest quadrant of the county near Boot Lake. These areas include numerous freshwater, hardwood swamp and bog areas and will be targeted with aerial spraying.

Mosquito control professionals will apply an approved pesticide, Dibrom, as an ultra-low volume spray. Such sprayers dispense very fine aerosol droplets that stay suspended in the air and kill adult mosquitoes on contact. This is a tactic other states, including Michigan, Massachusetts and Rhode Island, have recently employed to combat EEE.

Dibrom has been registered by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) since 1959 for use in the United States. Dibrom immediately begins to break down upon release of the spray droplets in the open air and breaks down rapidly in water and in sunlight.

The decision to implement the additional control measure was made by the County Commissioners in consultation with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Indiana State Department of Health, Elkhart County Health Department, Purdue University Ag Extension office, and Emergency Management.

Protecting the public health is the primary goal of the decision, the release said. 

County officials are targeting Wednesday, Oct. 2, at dusk, for the application. Thursday, Oct. 3, is the backup application date if weather prevents the Wednesday application.

Residents should take actions to protect ornamental fish ponds and bee hives. Organic farms registered on Field Watch will not be sprayed. If an organic farm operation is not registered with Field Watch, owners should contact Jeff Burbrink at Purdue University Extension, Goshen, 574-533-0554, by Tuesday afternoon, officials said. 

While the spraying is expected to kill 90 percent of mosquitoes, Elkhart County residents are urged to continue to take precautions until the first hard freeze.

The Elkhart County Commissioners will host a news conference at 10:30 a.m. Tuesday at 117 N. 2nd St., Goshen, Room 104. Maps indicating the areas receiving treatment will be available to review. Representatives from Environmental Health, Purdue Extension Office and Emergency Management will be available to answer questions.

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