BLSG’s arbovirus disinformation earns another state rebuke

Last month, the Salisbury Select Board deleted a paragraph in the annual report submitted by BLSG for inclusion in the Town Reports of BLSG member towns. The offending paragraph suggested that BLSG’s activities reduced the risk of residents contracting a disease from a mosquito bite. This type of false information has been repeated by BLSG for many years and we have been asking them to stop for at least two years. BLSG’s message is demonstrably false but their website and public statements continue the disinformation campaign despite direct rebukes from state officials.

Today, Patti Casey, the Environmental Surveillance Program Director at Vermont’s Agency of Agriculture, offered another strong reprimand. Patti Casey copied the following statement to us and to two state officials in Vermont’s Agency of Agriculture and Department of Health. The statement confirms our position that 1) BLSG is not authorized to even mention that their operation has any impact on mosquito-borne disease, that 2) truck-mounted adulticide spraying has no substantial impact on mosquito-borne disease, and that 3) BLSG has been defying state recommendations and honest public relations for some time.

Here is Patti Casey’s statement:

“The VT Agency of Agriculture (VAAFM) conducts mosquito surveillance and provides that information to the VT Department of Health (VDH) and other municipal entities as needed through 6 VSA §1083 (Mosquito Abatement) for the purposes of protecting public health. In the event a mosquito-borne illness threat rises to an actionable level as determined by the State of Vermont Arbovirus Surveillance and Response Plan, the Multi-Agency Response matrix is activated and emergency aerial treatments (“adulticiding”) may take place. This decision is based on data collected by VAAFM that is analyzed by VDH, and many interagency discussions take place before any aerial adulticiding is undertaken. A declaration of an eminent risk to public health must be made before this action would be taken, such as the high number of Eastern Equine encephalitis-positive mosquito pools identified in 2013, when the last public health-driven aerial application of an adulticide took place.

“The two Mosquito Control Districts (MCDs) in Vermont are municipal entities that exist to control nuisance mosquitoes for comfort, quality of life, and economic purposes. The MCDs currently receive funding through VAAFM for the purposes of applying larvicides and implementing Integrated Pest Management (IPM). Larvicides can be considered a more environmentally friendly mosquito control in that they often consist of naturally occurring bacteria that is toxic only to mosquito larvae and is applied directly to water. Larviciding is one tool in an IPM program, and is considered the front line in mosquito management. The MCDs do not receive any state financial support for trucks that spray to control adult mosquito populations.

“The MCDs are aware that they should not make public health claims with regard to their management efforts. Given that the municipalities fund the adulticiding activities, it is more difficult for VAAFM to control the MCDs’ “public health” messaging, although many attempts have been made to do so. The Brandon-Leicester-Salisbury-Goshen-Pittsford (BLSG) MCD has continued to advertise public health claims as a means of promoting themselves, and VAAFM continues to dissuade this messaging and to ask the BLSG to leave the vector (mosquito-borne illness) surveillance public health messaging to VAAFM and VDH, albeit with only limited success. Based on data and input from the Centers for Disease Control and Protection (CDC), we are certain that truck-mounted control of adult mosquitos does not significantly disrupt the amplification of a vector-borne disease or virus in a mosquito population.”

BLSG’s false information will probably appear in the Town Reports of most of the BLSG District towns this year. Similar misinformation has a large presence on their website, in fact one of the main menu headings at their site is “Information Center for Zika, EEE and WNV” (Zika is not spread by mosquitoes north of Florida and Texas).

This continued bad behavior is one of many reasons the Salisbury community is unifying around a vote to remove itself from BLSG this year. Join us on March 3 in voting NO to funding BLSG.

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