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Mosquito budget gets bit

Budget cutbacks have been detrimental to mosquito control programs throughout the state of Florida. Our neighbors in Jefferson County are facing the possibility of canning their program altogether, as Jefferson County Mosquito Control is now without a home. The program's director, Kim Albritton, was forced to confront the Jefferson County Commission at their April 7 meeting and seek a solution-- either the county coughs up funding or the program dies. Conversation included the possibility of another department, possibly the fire or sheriff's department taking on the task; one present at the meeting even suggested charging for the service. Sadly, if Jefferson County doesn't come up with a solution, the program has no chance of survival. Madison County has experienced similar budget strains. According to the Madison Mosquito Control Department Director, Jamie Willoughby, the state slashed the mosquito budget in half. Madison used to receive $36,000 in government funding for mosquito control. Now, the county receives only $18,000 from the state and then matches the amount in order to keep the program afloat. The biggest impact the budget cut made, according to Willoughby, was personnel. Madison used to employ two part-time drivers-- now, Willoughby drives the trucks himself in order to stay within the budget. In special circumstances, for instance, when standing water is left due to excessive rainfall and flooding, causing an increase in the mosquito population, extra drivers are hired on a temporary basis. While Madison's program is still active and receives much support from the County Commission, it is considered a privilege, not a necessity, according to Willoughby. In addition, he asserts mosquito control is meant to prevent disease, not provide comfort. Therefore, mosquito spraying must be regulated and used with discretion in order to stay within budget, follow state guidelines and provide everyone with equal care. When mosquito season begins, Mosquito Control's main concern is spraying the most heavily populated areas; Madison, Lee, Cherry Lake, Greenville and Pinetta; and to only spray when necessary. The department begins to survey and trap in all five areas; when traps are checked the next morning, if they are heavy with mosquitos, the department gains permission to spray. When complaints arise, the department is always willing to check out the situation, making sure to look for triggers such as standing water. If there are no easy fixes or precautions that could be taken in order to rid the area of mosquitos, then spraying becomes a possibility. Despite budget cutbacks, there are things everyone can do to prevent mosquitos and thus prevent disease. Director Willoughby encourages everyone to take the following precautions: • Remove all potential sources of stagnant water in which mosquitoes might breed. Mosquitoes can breed in any puddle that lasts more than four days. Water buckets, water troughs, wading pools, bird baths, wheelbarrows, clogged roof gutters, discarded tires, plastic containers or any water-holding container should be cleaned or emptied on a weekly basis. • Drill holes in the bottom of containers that are left outdoors, turn over wheelbarrows, aerate ornamental pools and stock them with fish or chlorinate them. • Stay indoors at dawn, dusk and in the early evening. • Wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants whenever you are outdoors. • Spray clothing with repellents containing permethrin or DEET since mosquitoes may bite through thin clothing. • Apply insect repellent sparingly to exposed skin. An effective repellent will contain 35 percent DEET (N,N-diethyl-meta-toluamide). DEET in high concentrations (greater than 35 percent) provides no additional protection. • Repellents may irritate the eyes and mouth, so avoid applying repellent to the hands of children. • Whenever you use an insecticide or insect repellent, be sure to read and follow the manufacturer's directions for use, as printed on the product. Note: Vitamin B and "ultrasonic" devices are NOT effective in preventing mosquito bites.

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