Mosquito spike following hurricanes Laura, Delta in LA lead to military aerial spray mission
BATON ROUGE - Recent heavy rain from Hurricanes Laura and Delta have created large areas across the state for mosquitoes to lay their eggs. In response to the recent spike in mosquito presence, aerial spraying will begin around dusk on Tuesday, Oct. 20.
The Governor’s Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Management (GOHSEP) and the Louisiana Department of Health requested and received approval for supplemental mosquito control assistance from the Federal Emergency Management Agency. The request was made last Wednesday, Oct. 14, after data indicated local mosquito spraying efforts could not adequately manage abatement in the region after back-to-back hurricanes. FEMA approved the plan Friday, Oct. 16.
The mission will begin spraying over Acadia, Calcasieu, Cameron, Iberia, Jefferson Davis, Lafayette, and Vermilion parishes. The U.S. Air Force C-130 aircraft will begin at a low altitude and spray when the mosquitoes are most active at dusk. The initial mission is expected to last about six days, depending on weather conditions and other factors.
Officials say additional parishes could be added to the project as more information is gathered.
GOHSEP announced the increasing number of mosquitoes and the risk they pose to the recovery effort on Monday, Oct. 19.
Most mosquitoes that appear after floods are nuisance mosquitoes that do not commonly spread disease but can have a serious effect on recovery operations by preventing responders and people affected by a disaster from being outside. Areas of standing water can also increase the number of mosquitoes capable of spreading diseases like the West Nile virus.
Aerial application of insecticide is the most effective way to rapidly reduce the number of mosquitoes in a large area and does not present a risk to people, pets, or other animals.
According to the Environmental Protection Agency, people may prefer to stay inside and close windows and doors when spraying takes place, but it is not necessary.
Applications will be conducted starting around dusk when mosquitoes are most active and after bees have returned to their hives for the night. The insecticides dissipate and break down quickly in the environment, and when bees emerge in daylight, they are not affected. Although this type of application will not cause a significant exposure for bees, beekeepers may choose to cover their colonies and prevent bees from exiting during treatment.
People can help control mosquitoes during the recovery effort by dumping out standing water around their homes and businesses and applying a commercially available larvicide in water that can’t be drained. People should also avoid mosquito bites by using an EPA-registered mosquito repellent every time they go outside and making sure their window and door screens are in good repair after the storm to keep mosquitoes out of homes.
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