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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Health board targets mosquitoes

Carla K. Johnson Staff writer

The Spokane Regional Board of Health wants to get the mosquitoes before they get us.

The board voted Thursday to support the creation of a mosquito control district in Spokane County to help prevent the spread of West Nile virus.

The vote has no real effect, other than to put pressure on Spokane County commissioners. A new mosquito control district would have to be approved by voters. County commissioners would have to put the issue on the ballot.

If voters then approved, a countywide effort to kill mosquito larvae could be up and running by spring of 2005.

A mosquito control district would levy property taxes to pay for spreading larvicide on ponds and other mosquito breeding grounds. Larvicide costs about $4.35 per acre treated, said environmental health specialist Shirley Broyles in a presentation to the board. She had no estimate on what a countywide mosquito control campaign would cost.

The annual budget for Grant County’s mosquito control district for 2003 was $912,000, Broyles said. That county uses planes to spread larvicide.

Clark County spends about $200,000 a year and uses trucks primarily, Broyles said.

The commonly used larvicide is a naturally occurring bacteria that does not harm species other than mosquitoes and black flies, Broyles said.

Studies presented at the National West Nile Conference in February suggest that larvicide programs can reduce the number of human cases of West Nile virus, Broyles said.

Since first appearing in the eastern United States in 1999, West Nile virus has been working its way west. Last year, only Washington and Oregon had no human cases. Idaho had one human case last year.

The virus spreads from birds to mosquitoes and then to humans and livestock. Last year, 264 Americans died from it, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Most cases are mild.

Two of the three commissioners, Kate McCaslin and John Roskelley, serve on the health board. They voted along with the rest of the health board in favor of the resolution.

On another topic, the board discussed, but did not act on giving Health Officer Dr. Kim Thorburn a raise. Thorburn currently makes $117,000 a year. Her last raise was in 2002. Board members asked the health district staff to bring them information about what health officers make in other Washington state districts.

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