Regarding a recent Letter to the Editor (Friday, Jan. 4, “Need more news coverage of mosquito threat”), a board member from the Brandon-Leicester-Salisbury-Goshen-Pittsford (BLSG) Mosquito Control District (MCD) claimed that the Zika virus was found in mosquitoes in Vermont (“Last summer, Vermont detected, for the first time, the Zika virus in mosquitoes, although, thankfully, not in people”). This is a false statement.
The Zika virus has never been found in any mosquitoes in the state of Vermont. The Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food & Markets (VAAFM) bears a statutory responsibility to monitor arboviral (mosquito and tick-borne) diseases. The agency has conducted mosquito surveillance for over 30 years to monitor the presence of several arboviruses in the state. We run a statewide program that traps, identifies and tests mosquito vectors (those mosquitoes capable of transmitting disease) from May through November every year. We sample all 14 counties of the state and have over 100 trap sites. We work closely with the Vermont Department of Health on program planning, sample testing and public outreach.
Since 2016, the agency has engaged in targeted, science-driven field research looking specifically for the mosquito species capable of vectoring Zika. Of the two known mosquito vectors (Aedes albopictus and Ae aegypti), only Ae albopictus, a southern species, might make its way to Vermont on transport vehicles. Although it would not be able to establish a resident population, as it is a subtropical species, we nevertheless have put a lot of resources into conducting surveillance for it and will continue to do so.
Our targeted and more general surveillance has never turned up the presence of primary Zika vectors in Vermont. Our testing has never returned a positive test result for Zika virus in a Vermont mosquito, as the writer claims, because we have not tested for it. There has been no local transmission of the disease in Vermont, and science does not support the theory that secondary vectors are competent transmitters.
The writer’s claim that “The adult mosquitoes are the ones that transmit the diseases. This should be a statewide issue, but the state is reducing its efforts in the area,” is also untrue, as we have, in fact, been expanded our surveillance efforts each year.
Vermont provides funding for larviciding efforts (the control of mosquito larvae) to the two MCDs located on the western side of the state. (These two MCDs are the only districts that have formed in Vermont, although any Vermont communities may come together at any time to form an MCD and request funding. The writer may suggest that more communities might want to form Mosquito Control Districts.) This funding is intended to aid in the control of nuisance mosquitoes for citizen comfort, and the amount of funding has not decreased. The responsibility for surveillance of vector mosquitoes for human and livestock health lies solely with the Vermont Agency of Agriculture and the Vermont Department of Health, not with the Mosquito Control Districts. The funding for the agency’s health-related surveillance has not changed.
It is regrettable and irresponsible that this misinformation made its way into the public forum, particularly given that the source of the misinformation was someone who should understand the issues and concerns of their community. Further, we would welcome and encourage inquiries about these important topics at any time, from the public or the media, before inaccurate information is relayed to the public.
Further information on the Vermont Agency of Agriculture’s Vector Management Program may be found on our website, www.agriculture.vermont.gov, or by calling (802) 828-3473.
Thank you for your time.
Alyson Eastman is Deputy Secretary of Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food & Markets.