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San Antonio Staff Propose Another Cut In Mosquito Control Budget

TPR archive
The Aedes aegypti mosquito can carry the Zika virus.

As communities across the country prepare for possible outbreaks of the Zika virus, the City of San Antonio’s senior staff is proposing another cut in funding for mosquito control. 

Zika is primarily carried by the Aedes aegypti mosquito which has been detected in San Antonio.  In Florida, where the virus has infected local mosquitoes, officials have ordered ground level and aerial spraying to destroy them.

In the past five years San Antonio has cut its mosquito control budget 75 percent from $538,973 in 2011 to $137,174 this year.  The city manager’s office proposes another 13 percent cut next year.

“The focus on the dollar amount in the budget misses the whole point,” said Jeff Coyle, San Antonio’s Government Affairs Director.

Coyle says the proposed $119,000 budget for 2017 would be enough because the city has cross trained restaurant inspectors and other city employees to kill mosquito larvae by dropping larvacidal bricks in stagnant pools of water.

“It’s much more effective to be dealing with the larvae and preventing the problem than it is to be spraying," said Coyle.

But larvacide doesn’t kill adult mosquitoes and the health department’s interim director has said some spraying would be needed if there’s an outbreak.  Right now San Antonio has just one vector control technician licensed to spray.

Deputy City Manager Erik Walsh says the city is prepared to respond to an emergency and could call on outside resources if necessary.

“If we do have an incident, we'll have our folks here, our employees. We’ll have the county.  We’ve got state strike teams.” 

The Texas Department of State Health Services says it doesn’t have technicians on staff that spray for mosquitoes.  It has contracted with a company to do that.

San Antonio officials say at least six additional city employees, most outside mosquito control, are being trained and licensed to use mosquito spraying equipment.