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Mosquitoes flying free as health departments focus on virus

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  • Mosquitoes flying free as health departments focus on virus


    Mosquitoes flying free as health departments focus on virus
    Bug spray, swollen welts, citronella. It’s mosquito season.

    And in a normal year, the health department serving Ohio’s Delaware County would be setting out more than 90 mosquito traps a week — black tubs of stagnant water with nets designed to ensnare the little buggers.

    But this year, because of COVID-19, the mosquitoes will fly free.

    The coronavirus has pulled the staffers away, so they haven’t set a single trap yet this year, according to Dustin Kent, the program manager of the residential services unit. Even if they had the time, the state lab that normally would test the insects for viruses that infect humans isn’t able to take the samples because it also is too busy with COVID-19.

    That means the surrounding community, just north of Columbus, Ohio, has to wait until potentially deadly mosquito-borne illnesses such as West Nile sicken humans to find out if the insects are carrying disease.

    “It’s frustrating knowing that we can do a more preventative approach,” Kent said. “But we’re stuck reacting.”

    In Washtenaw County, Michigan, mosquito samples aren’t being collected because the health department didn’t have the staff or ability to hire and train the summer interns who would typically perform the work. In COVID-19 hot spot Houston, Texas, a third of mosquito control staffers are working a COVID call center, stocking warehouses and preparing coronavirus testing materials. And across Florida, public health officials couldn’t test chicken blood for exposure to mosquito-borne viruses — chickens get bitten by the insects, too, so they can serve as warning signs — at the overwhelmed state lab until mid-June, a task that normally begins in the spring...