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Monticello fires early shot in mosquito war

MONTICELLO — Town officials said they are prepared to wagecombat with mosquitoes in Lawrence County this season.

Mayor David Nichols said he hopes spraying for mosquitoesearlier than usual will have more of an impact on the pestpopulation.

Nichols said Monticello may try to get a jump on the mosquitoesby beginning to spray in mid- to late-March, a few weeks earlierthan they normally do.

“Traditionally, we start spraying around April, but we may bumpthat up,” he said.

It is important to keep the population low, he said, to reducethe possibility of the reemergence of the West Nile virus in thecounty. The spraying also lowers the possibility of othermosquito-borne viruses, such Eastern Equine Encephalitis.

In addition to increasing their spraying, Nichols said the townwas using more aggressive chemicals and already has a supply instock.

“This year we’ll be attacking the larvae as well as the adults,”he said.

The mayor said he had contacted several other towns and theywere going to be doing the same, but he had not heard anythingabout West Nile from the state Department of Health.

“They’ve been kind of quiet about it up to this point,” hesaid.

The federal government is, however, making preparations to avoidanother West Nile outbreak. The House approved a measure Wednesdayfor grants to states and cities for programs to combatmosquitoes.

“Mosquitoes are nothing new to Mississippi and have over theyears become a nuisance we joke about,” said Third DistrictCongressman Chip Pickering, a cosponsor of the bill. “But illnesseslike West Nile are threats we must take seriously. West Nilestrikes the young, the elderly and the weak, and we must takeaction to deal with this new threat.”

The bill, approved 416-9, would provide federal matching grantsof up to $10,000 to local governments to bolster their mosquitoprevention plans and to the state for coordinating thoseprograms.

In addition, the measure allotted other grants of up to $100,000for counties and municipalities to carry out those plans. Thegrants call for a 50 percent match.

A municipality or county can only receive one of the twogrants.

The bill still needs Senate approval.

Last summer, Mississippi reported a total of 186 confirmed humancases of West Nile. Eleven people died from the virus.

The rapid spread of West Nile through 39 states created 4,071human cases and 274 deaths, according to the Centers for DiseaseControl and Prevention.

It was the first year Mississippi had to contend with the virus,which first appeared in the United States in 1999 in New York.

Lawrence County was lucky, Nichols said. The county had no humancases and only one report of a dead bird and two horses that wereconfirmed for the virus.

The outbreak began in the spring and ended in October when coldweather began killing mosquitoes or forcing them to hibernate.

By October, Lincoln County had reported four human and fivehorse cases; Copiah County had four human, two horses and threedead birds confirmed with the virus; and Franklin County had onehorse case.

Brookhaven Street Department Superintendent Jimmy Griffin wasunavailable for comment on the city’s plans to combatmosquitoes.