Pittsfield eliminates mosquito spray upon request, closes books on fiscal year

Pittsfield no longer will honor requests from residents to spray for mosquitoes, after a City Council vote Tuesday. The Berkshire Mosquito Control Project still will make use of the spray when there is a demonstrated health risk - a point that city officials referred to as a compromise on what has proved to be a contentious issue.

CLARKSBURG — An adult mosquito carrying the West Nile virus has been discovered near the Peter Cook Memorial Town Field, but town officials plan to hold off on the use of insecticide spray for now.

The town, which is a member of the Berkshire Mosquito Control Project, announced the findings Tuesday.

"No dead birds have been found, and the discovery, so far, is fairly limited," Town Administrator Carl McKinney said in a statement emailed to reporters Tuesday. "We will monitor [the] situation, and re-evaluate [the] response after [the] next testing."

The Berkshire Mosquito Control Project will continue its efforts to reduce the mosquito population in the area with the use of larvicide, according to Superintendent Chris Horton.

"We're basically treating a known breeding habitat with a bacterial larvicide ... and that basically would kill anything we hit before the mosquitoes emerge," Horton said.

The project recommended spraying the area with insecticide, but town officials opted against it.

"Each town makes their own decision," Horton said. "There are not a lot roads in the area, and not a lot of population in the area."

Support our journalism. Subscribe today. →

West Nile is a virus most commonly spread to people by mosquito bites. There are no vaccines to prevent or medications to treat the virus, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Fortunately, most infected people do not have symptoms, but about one in five people who are infected develop a fever and other symptoms. About one out of 150 infected people develop a serious, sometimes fatal, illness.

The Mosquito Control Project tests mosquitoes in its member towns every week. Clarksburg is not alone in finding the presence of the West Nile virus; Pittsfield announced the discovery of its second positive batch of 2018 last week.

The town is urging residents to take action to prevent the spread of the virus and breeding of mosquitoes, which include draining any standing water that may collect in areas such as bird baths.

If any dead birds are discovered, residents are advised not to touch the animal and call the Berkshire Mosquito Control Project. Birds can carry the West Nile virus and receive it from — or transmit it to — mosquitoes.

Adam Shanks can be reached at ashanks@berkshireeagle.com, at @EagleAdamShanks on Twitter, or 413-629-4517.