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County fights mosquitoes and leading cause of death

By Erin Smith

Mosquitoes were a topic on the agenda on Monday night at the Bladen County Board of Commissioners meeting.

Interim Bladen County Department of Health and Human Services Director, Wayne Raynor, said the Health Department began advising residents on September 25th and 26th to empty any items in their yards that held standing water as that can allow mosquitos to breed.

Raynor said the county currently has five sprayers, and three of them are in working order. He said 140 gallons of the product has been sprayed thus far.

“We have also what harm the mosquito spray might cause the bees,” said Raynor. “Every effort is being made to identify all of our beekeepers across the county.”

The Health Department also has mosquito dunks available at the front desk. Rayner said more have been ordered. One of more recent things we’ve become aware of, is organic gardening and farming. Rayner said it is to his understanding, that the chemical used the ground has to lay for three to five years if they are organic.

“It would be ideal to fly over the county, but in order to try to avoid those areas it would be almost impossible,” said Raynor.

He said they have looked at State assistance, and last week a $4 million allocation was made by the State for mosquito spraying. Of that, Bladen County is getting $39,845.

“We’re the fourth largest county in 29 counties, how do they determine 39 out of 4 million?” asked Commissioner Chairman Ray Britt.

It was also learned there is a 75/25 match required for the mosquito abatement funds from the State. Commissioner Charles Ray Peterson said that was not stated on his copy of the letter.

Bladen County Manager, Greg Martin, said he spoke with Dr. Cohen, the Director of the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services, and Martin said it was indicated the calculation was based on population density.

Commissioner Peterson said he reached out to Senator Rabon’s office for an explanation, but had not received an answer.

Commissioner Michael Cogdell asked if Clorox would help kill the mosquitoes in standing water. Kory Hair, with Bladen County Environmental Health, said he has heard of individuals using Pool Shock to try to control the mosquitos.

He gave an assessment of the situation. “Most people don’t realize that the mosquitos we have right now came from Hurricane Matthew. They laid their eggs in the flood water, the water receded, and we have not been flooded since then.  When we had that rain and it flooded, they hatched. So what happens is these mosquitos are laying eggs now, that will lay dormant until we get another flood,” said Hair.

Hair also told the board the entire county has been sprayed, and County employees are starting the process over again. He said they do not spray inside municipalities that have their own sprayers.

“So when you say you sprayed the whole county, what do you mean?” asked Commissioner Charles Ray Peterson.

“Every road that is in the county, except for the municipalities. We don’t spray Bladenboro, Clarkton, Elizabethtown, or Tar Heel; those that have their own mosquito sprayers,” said Hair.

He explained they do not travel down private roads due to the unknown hazards that may be present.

Hair said the cost to do aerial spraying of the county was $850,000 to $1.3 million to spray one time. It was decided that was cost prohibitive.

Hair said, Friday morning they traveled to the Kelly area and sprayed the ditches and other areas with standing water.

Commissioner David Gooden asked what type of chemical is being used. Hair said it is 4 percent pyrethrin and 4 percent Butol Pyrethrin. He said it is a water-based product.

He has had conversations with the school system about spraying the soccer fields, and the edge of woods at East Bladen High School. Hair said he got a request from West Bladen High School on Monday.

“Will those dunks help those in Kelly that still have water?” asked Commissioner Ophelia Munn-Goins.

Hair said yes. He added they do not need to place mosquito dunks in ponds, because fish will take care of the mosquitos there. Hair said you apply the dunks to standing water in yards and it will take care of the mosquito larvae.

Also, Marianne Valentiner and Monique Travise presented the 2017 State of the County Health Report. Valentiner explained the document is due in March of each year that the County does not perform the Community Health Assessment. She explained the presentation was put off while waiting on approval by the State and some other things.

“We updated the data each year with the newest information available to us,” said Valentiner.

She explained the most recent for some of the report is 2016. Valentiner said the counties priorities based on the last Community Health Assessment was Substance Abuse which consists of tobacco, vapor, alcohol, prescription drugs, and the second priority was weight problems and then emergent issue from the 2015 Community Health Assessment was Teenage Pregnancy.

The top cause of death Bladen County was Heart Disease, said Valentiner, the 2nd cause of death was cancer, the 3rd cause of death was chronic lower respiratory disease such as COPD, the 4th cause of death was Diabetes, the 5th cause of death was stroke and the 6th cause of death was unintentional injuries and those include such things as falls, drownings, accidental gunfire, poisonings, and motor vehicle accidents.

Valentiner said the teen pregnancy rate is decreasing in the county.

Commissioner Ophelia Munn-Goins asked about the priorities and how they were developed for 2016.

“The Community Health Assessment is a large document for us, and so those are developed and the priorities come from that document,” said Valentiner. “We have to work off that document.”

She said the 2015 Community Health Assessment was the last year the assessment was done. She said each year the Health Department generates a report.

Commissioner Munn-Goins asked if 2016 was the most recent data available, and Valentiner said 2016 was the most recent data the State has available. She added the State is in the process of uploading the 2017 data, but it is not yet available to the public.

“We’re frustrated because by the time we get to you the data can seem old,” said Valentiner.

Commissioner Arthur Bullock asked what she attributes the reductions in different categories. Valentiner said she attributed to programming both at the Health Department and through their collaborative partners.

The County is currently working on completing the Community Health Assessment, and this year they partnered with Cape Fear Valley Health and East Carolina University for the assessment. Valentiner said she expects to have a new set of priorities after the 2018 community Health Assessment is completed.

Travise also spoke about the programs that are ongoing including outreach efforts.

Charles Ray Peterson asked about special needs children. Valentiner said substance abuse was one priority that was indicated by the public in the 2015 Community Health survey.

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