City plans to fight Zika virus

By Ryan Lewis -

The Zika virus has become a very real threat to the United States and some are worried.

It has become bad enough that 150 health experts issued an open letter to the U.N. health agency calling for either a postponement or relocation of the 2016 Summer Olympics from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, to an area less impacted by the Zika virus outbreak.

It is a move that the World Health Organization rejects. The United States Olympic Committee said it could not force athletes to go to the games, but that it is monitoring the situation and issuing travel advisories to all athletes. The Zika virus infection is relatively mild, causing a rash, fever, and fatigue that usually lasts no more than a week.

The real concern is for pregnant women.

The Zika virus can be spread through a bite from an infected mosquito or through sexual contact with an infected person. The virus causes a birth defect known as microcephaly, which results in a baby’s head being much smaller than expected. However, that is only one of many possible impairments with the Zika virus. The virus can also be cause eye defects, hearing loss and impaired growth.

What is being done in Altus to combat the mosquito problem?

School is out and that means children are staying outside and playing longer, city league baseball and softball are about to begin, and many people are outdoors camping and spending time with friends and family on the lake. There are not many people who can afford to hole up inside their house and wait for this new storm to pass.

City Parks and Recreations Director Freddy Perez has a plan.

Weather permitting, Joe Rendina from Environmental Pest Control out of Lawton has been contracted to begin spraying the area as early as June 6. Rendina, who sprayed for mosquitoes in Altus last year and also sprays Fort Sill and Lawton, is licensed to spray for the Zika virus. Perez plans to begin with the ball parks — June 6 also marks the beginning of the city league baseball and softball season — and move citywide from there in four-hour increments until Wednesday. Perez anticipates being able to cover the entire town in that time.

Perez does not want to just kill live mosquitoes. He wants to stop the threat before has a chance to become a problem. Perez ordered a larvicide, an insecticide that specifically targets the larval stage of an insect, to deploy into detention ponds, the reservoir, or other areas of standing water. The larvicide will kill all eggs up to 150 days, keeping the mosquito population at bay and easing the minds of the local community.

Although the Zika virus is spreading, Perez does not feel the community needs to be alarmed. He does caution against standing water.

“If there are any old tires or water tanks in their yards that retain water, just empty them out,” Perez said. “Standing water acts as a nest for the mosquitoes.”

When the kids begin city league play Monday, rest assured the city is working to stomp out this growing problem.

By Ryan Lewis

Reach Ryan Lewis at 580-482-1221 ext. 2076.

Reach Ryan Lewis at 580-482-1221 ext. 2076.

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