Imagine receiving a flier on your door stating that there is West Nile virus in your neighborhood and that there will be spraying pesticide in a few hours.
In addition, you are told you should bring in your children’s toys and to leave your windows closed during the treatment.
On one hand, you may be relieved that the problem is being taken care of. On the other hand, you may have questions about the treatment and its impacts and be concerned about the short notice. If you work nights, you may not have even received the notice until it was too late.
So it was last week when the San Mateo County Mosquito and Vector Control District sent out fliers to a section of North Central San Mateo stating it was taking aggressive action after mosquitoes were found with evidence of the virus. The mosquitoes were detected Wednesday and the district decided spraying would take place Thursday night.
This week, the district reported that its efforts were largely successful and that the fogging done from its trucks reduced the mosquito population by 77 percent. In addition, the virus was not detected post-treatment. There was a public health concern and it was treated aggressively.
So all’s well that ends well, right? Yes, but the district could have done a better job in its noticing procedures and made sure its phone was staffed after hours so concerned residents could get their questions answered. A press release was issued Thursday but details on the location were scarce. And San Mateo city officials were left fielding calls from concerned residents without sufficient information on the activities taking place.
Part of the rationale for spraying on Thursday night was that, during the weekend, more people would be out enjoying the weather and there was a downtown festival planned both Saturday and Sunday.
The spraying was warranted and successful. Getting a handle on West Nile virus and the mosquitoes that spread it is critical for public health. The pesticide used is common and many who eat conventional produce in lieu of organic are probably exposed to it every day. However, hand-delivering notices that a particular neighborhood will be sprayed without the ability for residents to get more information before treatment is not the best procedure and we trust the district will take additional measures to ensure questions can be answered if and when such spraying is necessary again.