West Nile Virus ‘no laughing matter’ in Pelham

The West Nile Virus &uot;is no laughing matter&uot; in Pelham, Mayor Bobby Hayes sternly told a resident Monday night at a public information meeting about the epidemic.

Pelham resident Bob Phillips questioned Shelby County’s and the city’s efforts at containing the virus which has now infected five people across Alabama and killed eight Louisiana residents.

The meeting, attended by about 100 Pelham residents and led by officials from the Shelby County Health Department, included a few outbreaks of laughter by the city council and those in the audience.

&uot;I think (the West Nile Virus) deserves more attention than to just laugh it off &045; it is a problem for those who could die,&uot; Phillips said.

He told the crowd he has a sick elderly neighbor currently being tested for the virus which is spread by mosquitoes.

Phillips’ claim could not be confirmed by county and state health officials or Shelby Baptist Medical Center.

Hayes took great offense to Phillips’ remarks saying, &uot;if you think we are just laughing and not serious, you are wrong. But life is too short for us not to ever laugh.&uot;

Phillips was one of about 20 residents who spoke at the meeting, all of whom quizzed the city and health officials of the virus’ potential threat to the county.

Bill Banks, an environmentalist with the county health department, said six birds have tested positive for the virus in Shelby County, including one in Pelham. He said he is awaiting results from Auburn University on another 20 birds he has picked up in the county. He reported no human cases in the county.

&uot;For every 200 people who may have the virus only one will show severe symptoms,&uot; he said. &uot;Someone might have it, but we don’t know it.&uot;

Much of the meeting focused on the city’s plans for eradicating mosquitoes.

Free larvacide tablets, which are used to kill mosquitoes, were available to those at the meeting. The tablets can be used in garden aquatic pools, retention ponds and areas that do not drain well.

In addition, Hayes said city officials are putting the larvacide tablets in standing water they see around the city.

Phillips and another resident asked why the city was not spraying.

Ken Holler, city public works director, answered that question, saying.

&uot;Everybody is saying spray, spray, spray, but from our research (spraying) just gives people a false sense of security.&uot;

Holler said spraying only kills the mosquitoes in the air where the spray is applied and has no residual effect.

&uot;Right now we are only going to spray in dire situations,&uot; he said. &uot;We are not there yet.&uot;

After the meeting, Holler said the city’s mosquito control program is based on recommendations in a report published by state health officials.

In the report, Holler pointed to these statements: &uot;The best mosquito control program is an integrated program that includes point source reduction of breeding areas, routine larvaciding in those breeding areas that cannot be eliminated and adulticiding (spraying) only when necessary … municipal leaders must try to use integrated methods of mosquito control and not just routine spray with a fogging truck.&uot;

Larvaciding &uot;is considered the best course,&uot; according to the report