Friday, March 23, 2007

Mosquitoes For Sale

Image by James Gathany, CDC

Housing Bust Consequence #748:
House hunting for West Nile
Vacant for-sale properties can be a mosquito haven

Last year, mosquito abatement districts contended with floodwater in their ongoing battle against West Nile virus. This year, it's foreclosures and the sluggish resale housing market.

For-sale signs, especially if standing for weeks or months in front of empty houses, are red flags for vector control personnel looking for pockets of mosquitoes in residential areas.
"We are calling a lot of Realtors to get access to these properties," said Lloyd Douglass, general manager of East Side Mosquito Abatement District, which includes most of the northern half of Stanislaus County, including Modesto. "If they are being foreclosed on or sold, there is no one there to take care of them."
With foreclosures on the rise and home sales at their lowest levels in a decade, the abatement districts in Stanislaus County are focused on unoccupied homes.

Even if owners drained their swimming pools before moving out, many pools will not completely drain, officials said. And, they added, pools collect rainwater. Mosquitoes also can breed in flower pots, buckets and tires left behind.
The districts said they are working with people who have moved and are having trouble selling their homes. Abatement personnel will treat mosquitoinfested pools and can leave fish in the water to eat hatching larvae. Because of the public health threat, officials are urging absent owners to continue maintaining their homes.
Read more at the Modesto Bee.