New Hanover County Mosquito Control Policy and Practice

State: NC Type: Model Practice Year: 2013

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New Hanover County is located in southeastern North Carolina situated between the Cape Fear River and the Atlantic Ocean. The 2011 estimated population was 206,189 with the racial makeup being comprised of 81.1% White, 15.0% Black, 0.6% Native American, 1.3% Asian, 0.1% Pacific Islander, 1.8% persons reporting two races, and 5.4% of persons of Hispanic or Latino origin. New Hanover County’s mission is committed to progressive public policy, superior service, courteous contact, judicious exercise of authority, and sound fiscal management to meet the needs and concerns of our citizens today and tomorrow.

Each year mosquitoes threaten to impact the quality of life and health of the New Hanover County community and its visitors. There are over 30 species of mosquitoes that inhabit urban containers, woodland pools, freshwater swamps, and salt marshes throughout the county. Many of these species transmit diseases such as West Nile Virus and Eastern Equine Encephalitis which are endemic to the region and remain a concern for humans, livestock, and wildlife. Mosquitoes in New Hanover County can reach unbearable numbers if left unchecked and an organized effort is required to manage their populations. As part of this organized effort New Hanover County mosquito control utilizes public education, complaint investigations, drainage improvements, light trapping, larviciding, and adulticiding to address mosquito nuisances.

 

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New Hanover County Health Department
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New Hanover County Mosquito Control Policy and Practice
New Hanover County is located in southeastern North Carolina situated between the Cape Fear River and the Atlantic Ocean. The 2011 estimated population was 206,189 with the racial makeup being comprised of 81.1% White, 15.0% Black, 0.6% Native American, 1.3% Asian, 0.1% Pacific Islander, 1.8% persons reporting two races, and 5.4% of persons of Hispanic or Latino origin. New Hanover County’s mission is committed to progressive public policy, superior service, courteous contact, judicious exercise of authority, and sound fiscal management to meet the needs and concerns of our citizens today and tomorrow. Each year mosquitoes threaten to impact the quality of life and health of the New Hanover County community and its visitors. There are over 30 species of mosquitoes that inhabit urban containers, woodland pools, freshwater swamps, and salt marshes throughout the county. Many of these species transmit diseases such as West Nile Virus and Eastern Equine Encephalitis which are endemic to the region and remain a concern for humans, livestock, and wildlife. Mosquitoes in New Hanover County can reach unbearable numbers if left unchecked and an organized effort is required to manage their populations. As part of this organized effort New Hanover County mosquito control utilizes public education, complaint investigations, drainage improvements, light trapping, larviciding, and adulticiding to address mosquito nuisances. New Hanover County mosquito control has utilized innovative technology and strategies for controlling mosquitoes for well over a decade. Surveillance and identification is the foundation for controlling mosquitoes and is conducted weekly through light trapping and microscope identification. Pesticides utilized for treatments are chosen based on their minimum impact to the environment and are applied at the lower end of the application rate that will effectively control mosquitoes. Adulticiding efforts are tracked using GIS which records data on time, speed, flow rate, and location. The program has worked diligently to provide public education on mosquito control and pesticides via the website, New Hanover Government Television (NHCG-TV), and the local media. The website provides labels and MSDS on all chemicals used as well as specifics such as application rates and swath width for adulticiding. Utilizing ArcGIS, spray maps are posted weekly to provide notification on when and where mosquito spraying occurs. A public service announcement was created to discuss the Asian tiger mosquito; one of the primary nuisance mosquitoes in the county. Health Matters segments are conducted through the NHCG-TV that discusses mosquitoes and mosquito control operations. Interviews with the local media are frequently conducted to discuss personal protection and source reduction around the home. Facebook and Twitter are routinely utilized to provide notification and education on mosquito spraying, arbovirus alerts, and personal protection. Adulticiding is usually the last resort based on Best Management Practices for controlling mosquitoes, but is often necessary due to the inaccessibility to many mosquito producing habitats and the rapid development and succession of mosquito populations during peak season. Truck mounted Ultra Low Volume (ULV) sprayers distribute a permethrin based pesticide at 10 to 20 microns with approximately a 300 foot swath to suppress adult mosquito populations. New Hanover County is divided into 29 different spray zones and each zone takes an average of four hours to cover by means of driving along state maintained roads. Adulticiding operations are determined by evaluating mosquito populations through light trap numbers, landing rate counts, and complaints. Early into the mosquito season of 2012 the New Hanover County Board of Health adopted a Mosquito Control Policy to establish the mosquito control program’s goal, provide a formal process to document exclusions from adult mosquito control, and provide a means to resolve disputes between members of the public regarding exclusions.
Responsiveness The public health issue that this practice addressesOne of the main reasons for adopting a formal Mosquito Control Policy was to address the many requests for exclusions from mosquito spraying due to reasons that were often unfounded or based on speculation. As public health professionals it is our duty to be sympathetic to the public concerns, educate them on public pesticide use, present documented facts, and emphasize the public health benefit for mosquito control operations. Historically New Hanover County’s mosquito program maintained an informal process to exclude specific properties from mosquito adulticides. Past practice for exclusions included accepting phone requests for certain properties to not be sprayed due to health concerns, organic gardens, beekeeping, or some other adversity to pesticide. The main issue with providing exclusions in a closely spaced coastal community is that one exemption from mosquito spraying can exclude ten or more residents in the area. Over the past decade the number of request for exclusions had increasingly grew making it more difficult for staff to control adult mosquitoes. Exclusions from mosquito spraying also caused conflict between neighbors with vastly differing expectations for mosquito control service. Other than providing exclusions, there were issues with addressing some members of the public that were unfamiliar with mosquito control practices and the pesticides utilized. New Hanover County is a melting pot for many new citizens and visitors that have never experienced mosquito control spraying. Although the mosquito spray schedule is posted on the website weekly and announced by the local media, phone calls with inquiries and even outrage regarding spraying are often received from some of the public. A vocal few can have negative implications on any organization including those with the best of intentions. Process used to determine the relevancy of the public health issue to the communityEach year mosquitoes threaten to impact the quality of life and health of the New Hanover County community and its visitors. There are over 30 species of mosquitoes that inhabit urban containers, woodland pools, freshwater swamps, and salt marshes throughout the county. Many of these species transmit diseases such as West Nile Virus and Eastern Equine Encephalitis which are endemic to the region and remain a concern for humans, livestock, and wildlife. Mosquitoes in New Hanover County can reach unbearable numbers if left unchecked and an organized effort is required to manage their populations. As part of this organized effort New Hanover County mosquito control utilizes public education, complaint investigations, drainage improvements, light trapping, larviciding, and adulticiding to address mosquito nuisances. A Mosquito Control Policy would help establish the mosquito control program’s goal as well as provide a formal process to address exclusions from adult mosquito control. How the practice address the issueThe Mosquito Control Policy specifically highlights the purpose for mosquito control services and the exemption procedure for those desiring exclusion. Individuals could have their owned or leased property excluded from mosquito spraying by a 300 foot buffer by completing and submitting a mosquito nuisance control exclusion form. The exclusion form requires an applicant’s name, address, telephone number, signature, registration numbers for bees and/or organic gardens, and the signatures and addresses of two adjacent property owners. By requiring adjacent property owner’s signatures, a consensus for exclusion is provided for that area. A city, town, or functional community homeowner association may request to rescind or modify any spray exclusion if they believe the exemption unfairly impacts other residents who desire mosquito spraying. Requests may be submitted in writing to the health department for evaluation. The Board of Health also has an appeals process in place for those that believe they are unfairly impacted by the policy. The policy boldly emphasizes that in the event the public’s health is threatened by mosquito-borne disease, the suspension of mosquito adulticide service in an area due to objectors will be discontinued and the full range of available mosquito control resources will be expediently launched. The policy and exclusion forms are located on the health department website and the public can be referred there for any inquiries and concerns regarding the exclusion process.   InnovationEvidence based strategies used in developing this practiceA formal Mosquito Control Policy that addresses exclusions from mosquito adulticiding would be the first of its kind in North Carolina. New Hanover County is unique compared to many counties in the state due to the fact it is one of a few that is largely populated and located on the coast. Coastal communities are often inundated with salt marsh mosquitoes that do not pose problems West of I-95 in North Carolina. Large populations of mosquitoes along with closely spaced lots pose a real challenge with providing exclusions from mosquito spraying without excluding those that pay taxes for the service and want to be sprayed. Additionally, many people are unfamiliar with mosquito control practices and often question the purpose of spraying. These issues were the driving force behind establishing a formal policy that spelled out the need for adult mosquito control. The program has been very proactive on addressing mosquitoes through Best Management Practices. These practices include providing public education on personal protection, conducting surveillance to evaluate mosquito populations, and utilizing natural, mechanical, and chemical control measures for managing mosquito populations. This practice is a creative use of an existing tool or practiceThe process used to determine that the practice is a creative use of an existing tool or practiceMajority of the policies listed in the Environmental Health in All Policies Toolbox and specifically the Repository of Local Environmental Health Policies are in the form of ordinances and resolutions that ensure Integrated Pest Management practices are utilized and that drainage and premises are maintained to inhibit vector infestation.  Although all of these ordinances and resolutions are important to addressing vectors such as mosquitoes; New Hanover County already has these ordinances in place.  Through the process of elimination it was easily determined that a policy or a model practice did not exist that specifically addressed our issue; however, guidelines provided by the Environmental Health in All Policies Toolbox and language from currently implemented polices could be utilized for our policy to address exclusions that were inhibiting adult mosquito control operations.   The tool or practice used in a creative way to create the practiceTthe Environmental Health in All Policies Toolbox (HiAP).The Environmental Health in All Policies Toolbox and specifically the Repository of Local Environmental Health Policies were used as guides to help implement the New Hanover County Mosquito Control Policy.  Our policy was implemented through assessing an environmental health need, developing a policy to address the need, including stakeholder input, and ensuring the policy was fair and equitable for all citizens.  Our New Hanover County Mosquito Control Policy is unique because it addressed an environmental issue specific to our target area and population which is to control adult mosquitoes in a populated coastal community.   Adulticiding is usually the last resort based on Best Management Practices for controlling mosquitoes, but is often necessary due to the inaccessibility to many mosquito producing habitats and the rapid development and succession of mosquito populations during peak season.  A formal Mosquito Control Policy that addresses exclusions from mosquito adulticiding would be the first of its kind in North Carolina.  New Hanover County is unique compared to many counties in the state due to the fact it is one of a few that is largely populated and located on the coast.  Coastal communities are often inundated with salt marsh mosquitoes that do not pose problems West of I-95 in North Carolina.  Large populations of mosquitoes along with closely spaced lots pose a real challenge with providing exclusions from mosquito spraying without excluding those that pay taxes for the service and want to be sprayed. How this practice differs from other approaches used to address the public health issuePrevious policies implemented were designed to address mosquitoes through ordinances designed to ensure drainage and other premises are properly constructed and maintained to inhibit infestations.  Our policy is different because it addresses adulticiding as a specific program operation utilized for controlling adult mosquitoes in the environment which transmit diseases such as West Nile Virus and Eastern Equine Encephalitis.  Our policy is designed to address mosquito spray exclusions in order to benefit the greater majority.  Adulticiding is likely the most controversial control measures of all Integrated Pest Management practices.  This is due to the fact that spraying affects a large area in order to be effective since mosquitoes do not recognize property lines or borders and since pesticides if used improperly could negatively impact the public and the environment.  Providing public education on mosquito control operations and ensuring the public that Best Management Practices are utilized for mosquito control can go a long way towards deterring concerns and controversy.  With that said, polices must sometimes be implemented to ensure that the goal of the program which is to protect and promote the public’s health and well-being is upheld.  
Primary stakeholders New Hanover County environmental health staff contacted several agencies and sources when drafting a Mosquito Control Policy to ensure stakeholder input. The North Carolina State Department of Entomology Apiculture Program, The North Carolina Department of Agriculture Pesticides Section, The County Attorney, The Board of Health, The Environmental Health Committee, local beekeepers, and health department staff were the primary stakeholders involved in constructing the policy. LHD's role Health department staff receives and reviews all applications requesting exclusion from mosquito spraying for accuracy and thoroughness. If applications are incomplete the person(s) requesting the exclusion is contacted to complete the exclusion form. This information is then entered into an environmental health database for tracking and into ArcGIS. All spray truck operators are provided addresses and maps of exempted properties for each spray zone and exclude a 300 foot buffer around those properties. Before the beginning of each season all persons requesting exclusion are contacted to verify if they currently live at the listed address and desire to continue to be exempt from mosquito spraying. Stakeholders/partners New Hanover County environmental health staff contacted several agencies and reviewed several sources of information when drafting the Mosquito Control Policy to ensure stakeholder input. The North Carolina State Department of Entomology Apiculture Program, The North Carolina Department of Agriculture Pesticides Section, The County Attorney, The Board of Health, The Environmental Health Committee, local beekeepers, and health department staff all had an influence on constructing a policy that was fair and equitable for the citizens of New Hanover County. The New Hanover County Board of Health made the final decision on adopting the policy. Describe the relationship(s) and how it furthers the practice's goals.The entire community of New Hanover County is a shareholder when it comes to mosquito spraying. Staff communicates to the public that exclusion is always an option for those that protest being sprayed for mosquitoes. Many requesting exclusion include beekeepers, organic gardeners, and those with concerns of adverse health effects due to exposure to the spray. As part of the public education process, staff inquires of the reasoning for exclusion from individual requestors and discusses the pesticides utilized as well as policies and procedures that minimize exposure to the public and non-target insects. Much of the education process includes informing the public of when spraying occurs, the chemical used for spraying, how the need for spraying is determined, application rates, and the safety of the spray for the public and the environment. This information is provided on the website as well as discussed during media interviews throughout the season. Lessons learned A vocal few can have a significant impact on any organization. Once the Mosquito Policy was introduced it was immediately met with some opposition. The goal was to further address these public concerns through science, applied entomology, peer reviewed articles, expert presenters, and a public health perspective. It was imperative we were sensitive to concerns and yet ensure the facts were presented to the Board of Health so informed decisions could be made on adopting the policy. After much deliberation as well as several meetings and revisions the New Hanover County Board of Health Mosquito Control Policy passed unanimously and was adopted just in time for the 2012 mosquito season. The policy was designed to be fair and equitable yet ensure the protection and promotion of the public’s health from mosquitoes and the diseases they carry. The policy specifically highlights the purpose for mosquito control services and the exemption procedure for those desiring exclusion. Individuals could have their owned or leased property excluded from mosquito spraying by a 300 foot buffer by completing and submitting a mosquito nuisance control exclusion form. The exclusion form requires an applicant’s name, address, telephone number, signature, registration numbers for bees and/or organic gardens, and the signatures and addresses of two adjacent property owners. By requiring adjacent property owner’s signatures, a consensus for exclusion was provided for that area. A city, town, or functional community homeowner association may request to rescind or modify any spray exclusion if they believe the exclusion unfairly impacts other residents who desire mosquito spraying. Requests may be submitted in writing to the health department for evaluation and legal counsel. The Board of Health also has an appeals process in place for those that believe they are unfairly impacted. The policy boldly emphasizes that in the event the public’s health is threatened by mosquito-borne disease, the suspension of mosquito adulticide service in an area due to objectors will be discontinued and the full range of available mosquito control resources will be expediently launched. The policy and exclusion forms are located on the health department website and the public can be referred there for any inquiries and concerns regarding mosquito control services and the exclusion process. Time frame The idea of a formal Mosquito Control Policy to address mosquito spray exclusions had been discussed for years. Once the decision was made to move forward with the policy, it was a matter of months for the policy revision and approval process was completed. It only took a matter of weeks before majority of applications for exclusions were received and quickly processed early into the 2012 mosquito season. Implementation•Acknowledge issues exist that impedes a service provided designed to protect and promote the public’s health and well-being. •Research any current policies or procedures that exist that may address the issues. •Compose a formal policy that outlines the mission and goals and is fair and equitable. •Review the policy through administration and legal counsel. •Present policy for discussion and approval. •Revise policy based on discussions and stakeholder input. •Present policy for final approval. •Implement policy and evaluate effectiveness. Lessons learnedA vocal few can have a significant impact on any organization. With that said, the mosquito control industry is more progressive, creative, and environmentally conscious now more than ever before. It is imperative that measures are taken to educate the public and utilize scientific data to address the many misconceptions of public pesticide use and its effects on humans and the environment. Cost of implementationThe members of the Board of Health are set forth under Chapter 130 A of the North Carolina General Statutes. The New Hanover County Board of Commissioners appoints the members of the Board of Health. The Board of Health is composed of eleven members that reasonably reflect the population makeup of New Hanover County and include: one physician licensed to practice in North Carolina, one licensed dentist, one licensed optometrist, one licensed veterinarian, one registered nurse, one licensed pharmacist, one county commissioner, one professional engineer, and three representatives of the general public. Members of the Board may receive a per diem in an amount established by the New Hanover County Board of Commissioners.
Objective 1:One objective of implementing a Mosquito Control Policy was to establish the goal of the program which is to protect and promote the public’s health and well-being. This is accomplished utilizing several strategies to control mosquitoes including public education, source reduction, and the use of pesticides. The policy discusses the need and process for determining adult mosquito nuisance control as well as how the public can avoid exposure to mosquito control spraying.Objective 2:Another objective of implementing a Mosquito Control Policy was to formally document exclusions. Individuals could have their owned or leased property excluded from mosquito spraying by a 300 foot buffer by completing and submitting a mosquito nuisance control exclusion form. The exclusion form requires an applicant’s name, address, telephone number, signature, reason for exclusion, registration numbers for bees and/or organic gardens, and the signatures and addresses of two adjacent property owners. This provided a signed document by the person(s) requesting exclusion as well as two adjacent neighbors. By requiring adjacent property owner’s signatures, a consensus for exclusion was provided for that area. The exclusion information is recoded in a database as well as ArcGIS and the original paper copy is filed. In 2011 there were 69 requests for exclusions from mosquito control adulticiding. In 2012 after the policy was adopted there were only 33 requests for exclusions from mosquito control adulticiding. The requirement for individuals to complete a form and acquire signatures from adjacent neighbors provided a more formal process as compared to just accepting exclusion over the phone without considering implications to those around them.Objective 3:The final objective of implementing a Mosquito Control Policy was to provide a means to resolve disputes between members of the public regarding exclusions. A city, town, or functional community homeowner association may request to rescind or modify any spray exclusion if they believe the exclusion unfairly impacts other residents who desire mosquito spraying. Requests may be submitted in writing to the health department for evaluation. The Board of Health also has an appeals process in place for those that believe they are unfairly impacted by the Mosquito Control Policy requirements. In 2012 there were no reported incidents of adverse health effects due to mosquito control adulticiding. There also were no confirmed reports of honey bee kills at hives from beekeepers due to mosquito control adulticiding. There were no issues with disputes between neighbors due to mosquito adulticiding exclusions in 2012.
Stakeholder CommitmentSince the policy was adopted the number of request for exclusions and causes for concern from the public have been reduced. This is in part due to the local media coverage as well as the public education that took place while working through the process of adopting the policy. This is also due to the fact that West Nile Virus was at an all-time high in the United States in 2012. Additionally, staff has had much more success when working to control adult mosquitoes due to fewer exclusions. The timing of this policy could not have been better with the 2012 season being so active for mosquito-borne diseases. The policy has helped to frame the goal of the program and emphasizes the need for adult control measures in order to protect and promote the public’s health and well-being. This policy will help to remedy any future objections or debates as to when and where mosquito spraying may occur and ensures support from administration for mosquito control efforts. SustainabilityIt is hopeful that the New Hanover County Board of Health Mosquito Control Policy will help to continue to frame the goal of the mosquito control program and emphasizes the need for adult control measures in order to protect and promote the public’s health and well-being. This policy will also help to remedy any future objections or debates as to when and where mosquito spraying may occur and further ensures support from administration for mosquito control efforts moving forward.
 
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