|Pittsfield Sees Low Incidence of Mosquito Virus, Rise in E-Cigarettes|
|By Jack Guerino, iBerkshires Staff |
02:39AM / Monday, September 09, 2019
|The Board of Health heard about mosquito viruses and held a hearing on fallen tree limbs.|
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — The Board of Health reported that mosquito-borne viruses were held at bay this season.
Director of Health Gina Armstrong presented some numbers to the board last week and said there was only one positive finding of West Nile virus in Berkshire County this year.
"That is remarkable," Chairman Alan Kulberg said.
Armstrong said, in general, cases have been low throughout the entire state.
Statewide there were only 61 hits in mosquito samples this season, zero animal cases, and zero human.
In Pittsfield alone last year, there were 25 positive West Nile virus.
"That gives you an idea of how low the prevalence is statewide," she said.
Statewide there were 379 positive hits of eastern equine encephalitis the in mosquito samples. There were eight animal (horses) cases and four human statewide.
The last time EEE was found in Pittsfield was in 2013 when four samples tested positive.
Armstrong noted that the higher cases seem to move in three-year cycles. She said the last time the city saw higher numbers were in 2010 and 2012.
"Based on our past experience, we can really predict that there will be cases of EEE present next year and possibly the year after that," Kulberg said.
Pointing to a map, Armstrong noted activity seems to move from the eastern part of the state to the west.
She said the mosquito season is not over yet.
"We still have a couple more weeks where there is still a lot of mosquito activity so we still have to monitor closely to see if it makes its way over to Berkshire County," she said. "Typically mid- to late September those cold nights and frost there is a significantly reduced risk."
Board member Brad Gordon praised Pittsfield's mosquito control efforts.
"It has been forward-thinking and proactive based on risk," he said. "This just proves the value of that."
Although the mosquito numbers were low, this was not the case in youth e-cigarette use and Armstrong said according to a recent Central Berkshire Prevention Needs survey use is on the rise.
"Those numbers are crushingly disappointing," Gordon said. "We are going the wrong way and we felt like we were out ahead of this situation ... we are still seeing these numbers go up."
Armstrong cited the survey: 16 percent of eighth-graders said they had used an e-cigarette product in the past 30 days. This number was 29 percent in the 10th grade and 32 percent in the 12th grade.
She compared these numbers to the highest rate of cigarette use in the city of 17 percent in 2013.
Armstrong said the board in 2016 strengthened local tobacco regulations and banned all flavored tobacco products in the city limits except in establishments with adult-only permits.
She said she expects that kids purchase these products in other communities or online both of which would be incredibly difficult for the board to exercise some control over.
Kulberg suggested reaching out to the state delegation and other local resources for help.
"Anything that we might do to do more than what we have already done in this community to make the public more aware and to ensure public safety," he said.
In other business, the board tried to mediate a dispute between landowners over tree limbs that had fallen from Harreyl Street to property on Pinegrove Drive. There was a discussion of where the property line was in regard to the trees and who would be responsible them.
Nuisance Control Officer Stephanie Provencher provided the board with photos of the limbs and brush and thought the trees might be compromised, creating a safety hazard. She suggested the Department of Public Works assess them.
A family representative for the Harreyl property did not want anyone on the land without his being there but agreed to hear an assessment taken from the Pinegrove property and to be available later this month if further evaluation was needed from the Harreyl side.