County receives report on Metropolitan Mosquito Control District

Steve Manweiler, executive director of the Metropolitan Mosquito Control District, reported on 2016 activities of the organization to the Washington County Board of Commissioners Feb. 28.

Washington County is one of seven member counties of the agency, which is governed by a board of 18 elected county commissioners, and oversees a 2,900 square-mile service area, with a population of 2.7 million. The focus of the agency is on larval control of mosquitos.

The report includes information on the agency’s 2017 budget, set at $18.78 million. Of that, $17.4 million will come from a tax levy. Washington County will contribute $1.48 million.

Manweiler described the common mosquitos that populate the area, and carry viruses that cause illnesses. Distributing pellets in mosquito breeding grounds is used to combat mosquito larva, whereas spraying is used to combat adult mosquitos.

Manweiler noted the mosquito-borne diseases that the district combats:

• La Crosse virus, which is found primarily in children. Three incidents were reported last year, with only one in the control district;

• West Nile virus, which caused 66 illnesses in Minnesota last year, 80 percent of which were outside of the district; and

• Zika virus, which is has not been found in Minnesota.

The agency also monitors the distribution of deer ticks in the metropolitan area. Manweiler said public education is the main focus to reduce the risk of tick-transmitted diseases.

Black flies, or gnats, are another focus of the agency, which does larval surveillance and control in area streams, focusing on the Rum, Crow, Mississippi, and Minnesota rivers.

Manweiler discussed the Mosquito Control District’s plans for 2017, which include:

• managing the budget and expenditures with a goal of maintaining service levels while minimizing impact on metro taxpayers;

• emphasizing disease risk reduction services, including responding to new vector-borne diseases;

• evaluating how the district’s control programs can respond more flexibly to increased weather variability; and

• evaluating how the district’s sustainability program can be integrated with other district functions; and implement long-term succession planning and key employee retention.