May 25, 2010 8:57 PM by David Ortiviz

Local mosquito control programs squashed

Memorial Day weekend kicks off the un-official start to summer and time to fight off those pesky mosquitoes. In the past, the El Paso and Pueblo Health Departments have sprayed chemicals to kill the nasty bugs, but not anymore.

"Due to budget cuts we eliminated our mosquito control program and local regulations," said Susan Wheelan, Public Health Information Officer for the El Paso County Department of Health and Environment.

"This year the health department isn't doing any control activities," said Chad Wolgram, Environmental Health Program Manager with the Pueblo City-County Health Department.

Budget cuts have flattened both Pueblo and El Paso county's mosquito control programs. They won't be spraying this summer. The only government agency in the area with plans to spray is the City of Pueblo Parks and Recreation Department. They plan to hire a company to spray for mosquitoes from June to September.

With less being done to control mosquitoes in Southern Colorado, health expert say the public needs to be prepared for more mosquitoes--which are carriers the deadly West Nile Virus. "It's impossible to predict how bad West Nile Virus is going to be this year, if there's no control work the mosquito populations will increase," said Wolgram.

People can get the virus from mosquito bites. To avoid that, this summer more than ever, health experts want to stress the four "D's". Use insect repellant with Deet. Dress in long sleeve clothes. Be sure to Drain standing water around your home. Finally, remember mosquitoes bite most during dawn and dusk.

West Nile Virus may not be high on your radar. The virus peaked in Colorado in 2003 with more than 50 deaths. In 2009, there were three deaths in our state. Cases have dwindled, but experts say this is no time to let your guard down. "I would advise people always to worry about West Nile Virus," said Wolgram. "We know its going to be in the area, it's going to be in the area for a long time," he added.

Both health departments will continue to monitor and track the west nile virus in our area. For more information on protecting you and your family from West Nile Virus, visit these websites.

-Centers for Disease Control and Prevention West Nile Virus page

-Pueblo City-County Health Department West Nile Virus page

-El Paso County Health Department West Nile Virus fact sheet

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