Southfield receives funding for West Nile prevention

By: Kayla Dimick | Southfield Sun | Published May 8, 2019

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SOUTHFIELD — Before mosquito season is in full swing, the city is taking measures to thwart diseases spread by the insects.

Stormwater Manager Brandy Siedlaczek said at the April 15 City Council meeting that the city of Southfield received $9,941.73 from Oakland County through its West Nile virus prevention program.

Siedlaczek said the county has been providing such funding for local municipalities since 2003.

Since the inauguration of the program, Siedlaczek said, Southfield has been given over $260,000 in funding.

According to the Oakland County Health Division, West Nile virus is a mosquito-borne virus that can cause inflammation and swelling of the brain. Mosquitoes get infected with the disease by biting a bird that carries the virus, which is then spread to humans through the bite of an infected mosquito.

Most people who are infected with the virus have either no symptoms or experience mild illness, such as a fever, a headache and body aches, officials said in a news release. In some individuals, especially the elderly, the disease can develop more seriously and affect brain tissue.

West Nile virus came to the U.S. in 1999 and hit Michigan in 2002, Siedlaczek said. Last year, there were 196 cases reported in Michigan, with 12 of those in Oakland County.

“We did have a couple of major outbreaks in 2002 and 2012. We’re not sure why this was the case, but those years had very hot, dry summers, so there’s some correlation there,” she said. “The mosquito that has West Nile likes to breed in stagnant water, so if it’s not raining a lot, they’ll breed more often.”

The prevention program is a three-step process, Siedlaczek said.

“The main bulk of our program is to treat all of our city-owned catch basins with mosquito larvicides, which are dunks that the (Department of Public Works) staff goes out and puts in those catch basins,” she said.

When placed in the basin, the treatment sinks to the bottom and disintegrates. Typically, it lasts for about 150 days.

“So we typically get out there (in) early summer, late spring. It’s not harmful to humans,” Siedlaczek said. “They basically affect the larvae of the mosquito. This type of mosquito likes to breed in stagnant, standing areas such as catch basins.”

The second component of the prevention process is to treat any city detention ponds, as well as any standing or stagnant water within the city, and the third is educating the public on the disease.

City Councilman Donald Fracassi asked how far the preventative measures stretch.

“Does Oakland County spray over the Rouge River still?” Fracassi asked at the meeting.

According to Siedlaczek, Oakland County formerly used a spraying tactic on the Rouge River to prevent West Nile virus, but recently handed the reins on that to local municipalities.