An act of precautionary pest control set Alexandria, Kentucky officials abuzz Tuesday, when they said they had not been informed of Zika-related mosquito spraying near the city.
The spraying, which was performed by the Kentucky Department of Agriculture, was a response to a confirmed case of Zika virus within Alexandria, according to an email from the Northern Kentucky Department of Health to Alexandria Mayor William Rachford Jr.
The person with the virus contracted it abroad and there was no reason to believe local mosquitoes were infected, Steven Divine wrote in the email, but the Department of Agriculture would perform mosquito spraying in a small area near that person’s residence for the sake of safety.
“This is a one time precautionary spraying to reduce chances of the individual being bitten by local mosquitoes during the window of time the person could transmit the virus in this manner,” Devine wrote. “The Kentucky Department of Ag does not give notification prior to spraying, however, I wanted to make you aware of the situation since it is within your city limits."
So what’s the problem?
Alexandria Police Chief Michael Ward said the mayor did not read the email until late Monday night. Although he told other officials about it as soon as he saw the message, by the time the information got out, the spraying had been done.
Ward said Divine should have contacted public safety departments, rather than the mayor, about the Zika case and the preventative spraying.
“Without identifying the individual and protecting their right to privacy, we also have to protect the community at large,” he said. “Just let them know, if you get sick, don’t necessarily discount it.”
Ward and Alexandria Fire Chief Jeff Pohlman said that first responders have a right to know the general area around the confirmed Zika case.
“I would like to have some kind of information, knowing how to protect my personnel if something would happen,” Pohlman said.
Steven Divine said the spray does not pose a threat to people or pets, and there is no indication that Tri-State mosquitoes are transmitting Zika. Mosquito spraying, Divine said, is a frequent feature of community protection plans.
“This is something that happens statewide numerous times,” he said.