Steps Municipalities, Associations Should Take To Protect Residents From Zika Virus

389

By: Brian & Stuart Fischer, Presidents, Lake and Wetland Management, Delray Beach Special to the Boca and Delray newspapers

Florida residents are accustomed to what seems to be a never-ending battle to eliminate pesky mosquitoes and midges that make simply sitting outside a challenge.

We learned last year that mosquitoes are much more than an inconvenience. With the recent heavy rains, the Zika virus could possibly loom again as a health crisis. Recent reports that is the case. Strategies involve much more than swatting mosquitoes, burning specialized candles, and having cans of spray handy. Eliminating mosquitos and midges must now involve much more than using these band-aids.

Government officials, homeowners and condominium association boards, and golf course maintenance professionals must look at a variety of sophisticated initiatives. Some involve altering our natural habits in efforts to prevent our residents from suffering severe illnesses that result from mosquito bites.

These efforts must be a priority for those charged with managing lakes and waterways that can become breeding grounds for these mosquitos and midges.

We are warned to eliminate “standing water” as a first step toward controlling the mosquito population. Most people regard standing water as puddles or flooded swales. Keep in mind that many waterways in Florida fall into this category. They were created as “retention ponds” to collect water and prevent flooding from heavy rainfall. These bodies of water do not flow naturally and are the perfect environments for breeding mosquitos. They have a specific function in addition to providing beautiful views from our backyards.

Today, however, there is a growing concern among association boards on ways to control the mosquito and midge population. While there is no way to completely eliminate disease-carrying insects, there are effective ways to mitigate the risk. The following are several strategies boards of directors should consider:

  • Install aeration systems/fountains in lakes and waterways that keep water moving, creating an unhospitable environment for hatching.
  • Associations should inquire about liquid and pellet slow-release insecticides.
  • Once a week, empty and scrub, turn over, cover, or throw out items that hold water, such as tires, buckets, planters, toys, pools, birdbaths, flowerpots, or trash containers. Check inside and outside your home. Mosquitoes lay eggs near water.
  • Some communities and municipalities are stocking waterways with the mosquito-eating fish gambusia.
  • There is also evidence that genetically modified mosquitos can be effective. Congress is currently considering granting an emergency license to a British company which has engineered a line of insects whose offspring are unable to grow to adulthood, and, therefore can’t reproduce. Boards of directors should monitor progress on this initiative.
  • It is also important to continually have professionals monitor waterways and shorelines to identify hatching larvae.
  • While we can’t avoid being outside, consider staying indoors during twilight when insects tend to swarm. Also, seek the protection of screened-in patios.
  • Bromeliads grown in tight, cylindrical formations, allowing water to pool. Miami-Dade County and Miami Beach have removed them from all government properties. Residents have been encouraged to do likewise.

Florida is faced with a potential public health crisis. The risks can’t be completely eliminated. Many municipalities and associations should be applauded as proactive in taking these steps that will ultimately protect citizens and community residents.

Stuart Fischer and Brian Fischer are Presidents of Lake and Wetland Management, Inc. (www.lakeandwetland.com) Founded in 1992, Lake and Wetland Management is a full service environmental resource management company based in Delray Beach. Its State-certified, trained biologists have been providing environmental services for waterways, wetland management, lake management and natural areas throughout Florida, leading the industry of environmental services.  The firm works closely with many government agencies, builders, developers, property managers and homeowner’s associations. Lake and Wetland Management has 11 offices throughout the state.