Photo by Karen Frantz
By Karen Frantz

Bellerose resident Angela Augugliaro says mosquitoes are so bad in her neighborhood she can barely go outside.

“The mosquito population this summer has really been terrible,” she said. “I can’t even sit out in my yard. Actually, I can’t even go out and take the garbage out and not come back in the house with one or two bites.”

Augugliaro, president of the Queens Colony Civic Association, said in all the years she has lived in her neighborhood, the mosquito problem has never been as bad as it is now.

Augugliaro and other civic leaders along the Queens-Nassau County border joined state Sen. Tony Avella (D-Bayside) at a rally in Hyde Park last Thursday in calling on the city Department of Health to dramatically up its efforts to control mosquitoes and reduce the spread the West Nile Virus in eastern Queens.

“You would think the city would be much more proactive,” Avella said.

Avella and the civic leaders said the mosquito population has grown substantially in recent years and some have tested positive for the West Nile Virus, a mosquito-borne disease that can cause flu-like symptoms and rarely death.

He said Nassau County, just a few blocks away from where the rally was held, has taken an aggressive approach against mosquitoes, with multiple larvicides and ground treatments, and he questioned why the city government has not done the same.

“The city of New York has to adopt a similar policy to Nassau and be much more proactive in spraying,” he said.

Avella saidthe city not only needs to spray more often and be better at alerting residents when spraying occurs, but also target areas that have tested positive for West Nile Virus.

“Even when the city finds a specific pool or pond where the mosquitoes have West Nile Virus, it doesn’t mean they’re going to spray,” he said, saying that needs to change.

The Department of Health responded that it regularly conducts field surveillance, tests mosquitoes for West Nile Virus and uses the results of the tests to determine whether or not to spray specific areas of the city.

It said the decision to spray an area depends on trends in the number of mosquitoes that test positive for West Nile Virus in the area. It also said that while West Nile Virus was detected in mosquitoes in New Hyde Park, the levels did not indicate a high risk that people would get infected in the area.

Avella said, however, that failure to act not only puts people’s lives and health in jeopardy, but also their quality of life.

“The mosquito population is now so bad that every community in my Senate district is now complaining that residents cannot sit out in their own backyard,” he said. “They can’t go for a walk. In fact, while we’re standing here we’re being bit. This is unacceptable.”

Reach reporter Karen Frantz by e-mail at kfrantz@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4538.

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