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Article updated: 6/17/2013 1:08 PM

DuPage exploring new ways to fight mosquitoes

By Robert Sanchez

DuPage County apparently doesn't need 45 governments battling mosquitoes to wage an effective war against the pesky insects.

A task force charged with developing strategies to reduce the risk of mosquito-borne illnesses, such as West Nile virus, is proposing the county explore having its nine townships oversee all of DuPage's abatement efforts.

That idea is one of several recommendations from the task force adopted last week by the DuPage County Board of Health. Other proposals include implementing a public health education campaign, working with the forest preserve district and establishing standardized abatement practices for municipalities.

"This is a public health concern for my board," health board President Linda Kurzawa said. She said DuPage had 56 confirmed cases of West Nile virus last year, including five West Nile-related deaths.

Kurzawa, who served on the task force, called the recommendations "a good action plan" to enhance abatement efforts. The county board is expected to review the suggestions on June 25.

There currently are 45 municipalities, townships and service districts targeting mosquitoes in DuPage.

County board Chairman Dan Cronin says Bloomingdale Township has "a model approach" to handling mosquito control within its boundaries.

The township, which previously tackled mosquitoes only in unincorporated areas, in 1999 expanded its program to include all of Bloomingdale and parts of Addison, Carol Stream, Glendale Heights, Hanover Park, Itasca and Roselle. Those municipalities help pay for the program.

"They are taking care of one-ninth of the problem here in the county," Cronin said. "If we could replicate that eight more times, we've got corner-to-corner coverage."

So the mosquito task force is recommending a pilot program modeled after Bloomingdale Township's be used in another township.

Another part of the effort to develop greater coverage calls for the forest preserve district to become involved.

Health department officials hope to work with the forest preserve and propose changes to its mosquito abatement ordinance.

Whether the forest preserve district, which owns about 12 percent of all the land in DuPage, agrees remains to be seen.

Tom Velat, the district's invertebrate ecologist, said the forest preserve doesn't spray insecticides to kill adult mosquitoes because those products could kill other insects and have "a very detrimental effect" on ecosystems.

"Our job is to maintain natural ecosystems -- not to eradicate mosquitoes," Velat said.

Still, the district does take steps to control the culex mosquito, which is the type known to carry the West Nile virus.

In addition to doing regular testing at preserves throughout the county to locate culex mosquitoes, the district does larvicide treatments when the bugs are found.

"With our current larvicide program and our monitoring program we can effectively control culex breeding habitats where we do find them actually breeding," Velat said.

He said the district has been doing its West Nile management efforts for 10 years with "very good results."

While discussions between health department and forest preserve officials will take time, a public health education campaign is poised to launch later this month.

The campaign will include the use of a "personal protection index" to inform residents about mosquito activity in their community. The index also will advise residents about what precautions they should be taking.

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