2008 SPRAYING IN NASHVILLE: What we learned and what we did!


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We requested the Health Department's 2008 mosquito trapping records to find out what they did to address mosquitoes non-toxically before they sprayed in 2008 and what effect spraying had on mosquitoes. The department has not sprayed Nashville neighborhoods since 2008 because we used the data to support our requests for policy changes.

After seeing the 2008 data, the director of health at the Metro Public Health Department agreed that:
1. Transmission of West Nile virus from mosquitoes to humans is exceedingly rare in Nashville.
2. The department could do a better job using the least toxic controls before they sprayed.

He responded by raising the threshold for spraying so that it is highly unlikely Nashville neighborhoods will be mass sprayed again as a control for West Nile virus (unless there are significant changes in human transmission).

We were able to convince him of the need for changes by presenting him with a report that used the department's own data. It showed:
1. They spray four and a half times in one neighborhood in Antioch in 2008 and there was no reduction of mosquitoes. In fact, mosquito populations increased a number of times immediately after spraying.
2. The department took little to no action to identify and treat larval sites in the area. (Unless larval sites are eliminated or treated, adults mosquito management will not be successful.)
3. There were diseased mosquitoes found in the area for weeks before any action was taken and there were no reported human cases.
4. In some cases, the department sprayed after finding less than 10 mosquitoes in their traps.


The records revealed that the 2008 Antioch spraying did not reduce mosquito populations. In at least one case, the mosquito population increased by 420% one day after they sprayed. The last two times they sprayed in Antioch, the traps had only 10 or less mosquitoes. (Spraying for a small number of mosquitoes can contribute to creating resistant mosquitoes.)

Health officials claim they practice Integrated Pest Management (use less toxic methods to control mosquitoes first before spraying). However, during the 3 week period before they sprayed in 2008, their records showed no action was taken by the department to reduce mosquito populations less toxically in the affected area.

Records also show that spraying did not prevent more mosquitoes from testing positive. By the end of the season, they had 7 positive tests for West Nile virus in Antioch - 3 were found after they sprayed. This is not Integrated Pest Management. It is poorly run Pest Management. We took the results to Vivian Wilohoite (council representative for the Antioch neighborhood that was sprayed). She volunteered to meet with the Director of Health about improving Pest Management in Nashville. The director made some promises for new policies. Later, he announced that he will use a higher threshold in 2009.


No Spray Nashville delivered a summary of the Health Department's records to the Metro Council's Health and Hospital committee in December 2008 and exposed the Health Department's poor preventative protocol and lack of effectiveness of the 2008 spraying in Antioch. Two council members volunteered to come with us to talk with the Director of Health, Dr. Bill Paul, to ask for improvements.

The end result was that Dr. Paul admitted that the Health Department did not get the result they had hoped for after spraying in 2008. He also agreed that West Nile virus was not and has not been a serious threat in Nashville. After we pointed to records showing that less toxic measures were not taken prior to spraying, he agreed that they should do a better job with less toxic measures before resorting to spraying. He later made the announcement that they would raise the threshold for spraying. In 2009, they did not spray and we expect that if the new threshold is upheld that spraying is unlikely in the future.

We have to commend Dr. Paul for doing what no other health official in Nashville was willing to do. It took six years and a new director for the Metro Public Health Department to finally use science, common sense, and their own records to make wise decisions. We do caution citizens that some new mosquito borne illness scare or a change in management could impede this progress. We pledge to keep an eye on their mosquito control program and to report back on how they are doing with less toxic prevention.

The Health Department still has not created detailed protocols like many cities that do not spray have. They should do this to help avoid the protocol failures they had in the past. We hope this will change as we continue to monitor their records and schedule meetings in the future with them.


Why other cities have chosen not to spray
Effective ways to get mosquitoes to quit bugging you
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