County awarded $150,000 in West Nile virus funding | SierraSun.com

County awarded $150,000 in West Nile virus funding

David Bunker

Nevada County will receive state funding for West Nile virus prevention this year that will allow nearby mosquito abatement crews to control breeding grounds around Truckee, county officials say.Both of the county’s funding requests – totaling nearly $150,000 – were approved by the state, allowing Nevada County, which does not have a mosquito abatement district, to combat the disease in a year that experts say will be stronger than last season.”It’s a pretty sizable drop in the bucket for now,” said Nevada County Supervisor Ted Owens, who outlined the county’s needs before the state Senate committee that decided the West Nile funding.Nearly $90,000 will go toward western Nevada County efforts, and close to $60,000 will be earmarked for the eastern side of the county. Around Truckee, the county expects to contract with the Placer Mosquito Abatement District for West Nile virus prevention.Larry Sage, the county’s director of environmental health, said that Truckee residents can expect to see crews out spraying for mosquitoes, or treating the insect’s breeding grounds, now that state funding is on the way.”They would be able to knock down the mosquito population and knock down the mosquito breeding areas,” Sage said.Getting the Placer district to do work in Nevada County is a big help in a mosquito season that is shaping up to be a longer and more intense period than last year.”It seems to be, at least in Nevada County, about a month ahead of last year,” said Sage, noting that the county has already found its first dead bird infected with West Nile Virus.The nearly $150,000, which comes from $12 million in the state budget as an “emergency measure” for West Nile, marks the first time the state has aided Nevada County in combating the mosquito-borne disease.Truckee’s Senate representative Dave Cox, who sits on the Senate West Nile virus committee, pushed for the state funds to help rural counties that have no formal abatement district.”It’s been very clear that California has an ongoing crisis with West Nile virus,” said Peter DeMarco, spokesman for Cox. “Senator Cox is very clear that there is a role that the state must play.”But once these funds are used up, which will be by June of next year, Nevada County will have to figure out ways to continue mosquito abatement, Sage said.”The state has indicated that this is a one-time thing,” Sage said.DeMarco said that Cox, who is still discussing ways to combat West Nile virus in the senate committee, will continue to lobby the state for funding down the road.”One-time funding will not make this problem go away,” DeMarco said.While this money may be a quick fix, it also could turn out to be the beginning of Nevada County creating its own mosquito abatement district, Owens said.”This is a huge financial step for the county to perhaps develop our own vector control district,” he said.Sage and Owens say they believe a big reason that the state was so willing to fund West Nile prevention in rural counties was both of them showed up to the state senate committee meeting and explained the need in Nevada County.Owens believes that preventing a disease outbreak in Nevada County is not only a local concern, but should be a concern of the state because the area attracts tourists from around the state. Many of those tourists head straight to the location where mosquito activity is the highest, by recreating in and around lakes, rivers and streams, he said.”People come here in the summer to hang out where mosquito larvae hatch,” Owens said.West Nile Virus has been detected in 45 of California’s 58 counties this year. In 2005, there have been 31 human West Nile infections, including two deaths, in the state.