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Atlanta plans to add $400,000 to budget for mosquito control

The Williamson County Cities and Health District is urging citizens to take precaution against mosquito bites.
The Williamson County Cities and Health District is urging citizens to take precaution against mosquito bites.

Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed said he aims to add $400,000 to the city’s budget to help prevent the Zika and West Nile viruses by controlling mosquitoes.

Reed is calling on the Atlanta City Council to include the additional funding in the city's budget. After an unusually warm and wet winter, city officials are concerned about an increased risk of mosquitoes.

Reed also took a swipe at Fulton County over the mosquito issue.

The mayor said the job of mosquito control has “traditionally been borne by Fulton County,” but said he is seeking additional funding by the city “because of the gravity of the threat and our dissatisfaction with the role that Fulton County has been playing.”

“We don’t believe that there are enough people working on this problem every day,” Reed said. The mayor said since 2010, Fulton County “has slashed its funding for mosquito prevention.... We certainly will not sit by while resources toward prevention are reduced.”

Fulton County, for its part, said it did not reduce funding for 2017 compared with 2016. The county “has launched aggressive and coordinated mosquito control efforts,” according to a handout from a briefing on the county’s Zika efforts. The efforts include spraying, larvicide, mosquito surveillance from 12,000 catch basins around the county and education.

While Atlanta has not had any identifiable cases of Zika, Reed said "we think it is appropriate that we be prepared given the instances we saw last year in the Miami area." Mosquitoes transmitted the disease last year in pockets of the Miami-Dade area, causing panic among pregnant women.

The city’s mosquito control program would be expanded with mosquito surveillance at recreation centers and other “hot spots,” mosquito site inspections, larvicide treatment and a public education campaign, Reed said.

Atlanta director of emergency preparedness Ria Aiken said the city’s surveillance program will “complement the things that are happening at Fulton County.”

Hartsfield-Jackson International, the world's busiest airport, plays a key role in the public education campaign because virtually all of the Zika reports  in Georgia have been travel-related, "involving people flying into Atlanta through Hartsfield-Jackson," Reed said.

The airport works with the state Department of Public Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said Hartsfield-Jackson general manager Roosevelt Council. Signs and public service announcements at the airport give information on mosquito control and the Zika virus, while airport shops sell mosquito repellent.