Mosquitoes pose serious problem in Clay County

Planes used to spray for insects


ORANGE PARK, Fla. – Firefighters on Pine Avenue in Orange Park say the mosquitoes are terrible.

"On the calls that are closest to the woods and closer to the water, we're getting so swamped with mosquitoes that we're handing out bug repellant to our people.  It's a lot worse than in years past," Clay County Firefighter Russell Benes said.

Between Tropical Storm Beryl and Tropical Storm Debby, Clay County has received about 37 inches of rain.

The concern is that the standing water will lead to mosquitoes, which could lead to an increase in the number of West Nile Virus cases.

"With the amount of rain that we've received, we've got a significant amount of standing water.  With the standing water, it causes the mosquito count to increase," said John Ward of Clay County Emergency Management.

Clay County Mosquito Control has been spraying streets and neighborhoods from the ground. Saturday night was the first time the state used planes to cover the area from the sky.

"After Debby, we requested the state come in and do a county-wide area spray. But due to the funding allocations they've had to do this, essentially statewide, we're only limited to a 15,000 acre track.  In Northeastern Clay County, which is where our nightly track counts have been the highest, they've been averaging between 2 to 4,000 (acres) a night," Ward said.

Clay County has not had a case of West Nile Virus in several years.

A 62-year-old Jacksonville woman contracted the virus last week. Last year, Duval County had 19 cases of West Nile. Two people died. A man in Glynn County, Ga. also died from the virus in 2011.

It is a situation the county and state are taking very seriously.

"We've got West Nile and a lot of diseases that are transferred through mosquitoes and just the inconvenience of them," Ward said.

Firefighter Benes said the situation is already affecting the way of life at the firehouse.

"It's not enjoyable to stand outside.  We usually stand outside and talk around the station at night but we've moved our conversations inside," he said.