With the West Nile virus spreading quicker this year than last, the Virginia Department of Transportation's roadside managers and their staff members have been trained on mosquito biology, larva identification, sampling and the application of larvicide.
According to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, the virus has already been detected this summer in mosquitoes, birds, horses or other animals in at least 32 states. At this time last year, about 20 states had detected the virus.
Dr. David Gaines with the Virginia Department of Health trained 70 VDOT employees in three locations in late May and early June. More than 40 of those trainees are now certified in Public Health Pest Control.
"We are aware that West Nile virus is a concern for citizens and we wanted to take a proactive approach and step out in front of the problem," said Brian Waymack, assistant director for roadside management.
When citizens report a standing water problem on VDOT-maintained property, the district first ensures that the ditch is draining properly. If standing water does not drain within seven days, roadside managers initiate drainage improvements including digging deeper or wider ditches if necessary. If mosquito larvae are present, the are may be treated with larvicide. Each district is equipped with extendable handle dippers and breeding houses for taking larva samples.
Phase II of the VDOT training will involve teaching roadside managers to identify various species of mosquitoes including those that could carry West Nile virus.