Health

Orange County delays spraying for West Nile Virus

"The whole idea is to try to break the infection rate in the mosquitoes," says Robert Cummings, laboratory director for the county's vector control district.
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Orange County has delayed for at least a week its plan to spray four sections of Santa Ana for mosquitoes infected with West Nile virus. Officials say they need to wait for a change in the weather.

The county is facing a larger-than-usual outbreak of West Nile; it has reported more than 90 cases of the disease this year, and three deaths.

As part of its plan to curb the disease, the county originally planned to start spraying early Tuesday morning with truck-mounted foggers. Officials at the county's vector control district say they need to wait until the weather is a little cooler and there is no threat of rain.

"The whole idea is to try to break the infection rate in the mosquitoes," says Robert Cummings, the vector control district's laboratory director.

Some have raised concerns that the insecticide could harm people. Among them is Jay Feldman, executive director of the environmental group Beyond Pesticides. He's concerned about exposing people to toxic chemicals.

"This is not an easy decision for communities, but it has to be made with the knowledge that the chemicals represent a hazard for those that are young and the elderly," Feldman says.

"No pesticide is risk-free," says Cummings. "But these are EPA approved for the purpose of mosquito control in urbanized areas or, for that matter, any area." The spray will have "extremely low doses" of toxins, he adds, "so the dosage rate is rated not to be adverse to human health or to pets and other wildlife."

Still, as a general precaution, the agency encourages residents of the sprayed areas to stay inside, with their doors and windows closed, and non-recirculating air conditioners shut off, until 30 minutes after the treatment. It also recommends covering fishponds, pet food and water bowls.

MAPS: Vector Control notice with maps of areas to be sprayed

MAPS: Vector Control notice with maps of areas to be sprayed