Pasadena Public Health Department Says it Needs Help Tracking Mosquito-Borne Diseases

Published : Friday, October 21, 2016 | 4:50 AM

The Pasadena Public Health Department returns to the City Council Monday with a detailed report supporting its request for the Council to authorize the management and operation of the City’s mosquito vector control by an outside agency.

The report said the Department is not able to mount sufficient proactive monitoring of mosquito-borne diseases without either a significant investment and increased operating budget or the city’s vector program annexation by the San Gabriel Valley Mosquito and Vector Control District.

Mosquito-borne Zika and the West Nile viruses are serious health concerns. West Nile virus-infected dead birds have already been found recently in both Altadena and Sierra Madre, and nine West Nile virus-positive human cases have been reported within the San Gabriel Valley.

Mosquitoes capable of spreading Zika virus have been identified in the San Gabriel Valley.

“I feel a sense of urgency about this,” Mayor Terry Tornek said recently, after he visited Zika-affected areas in Miami. “We need a delivery service that can respond to emergencies.”

Vector control describes any method that is used to detect and then limit or destroy specific disease-carrying mosquitoes. It covers the many levels used, from fogging or spraying to collecting, catching and monitoring breeds and populations.

If approved, Pasadena residents would pay for the more robust service with an increase of about $12 per year on their property taxes. Commercial, industrial, and others would see an increase of $20 per year.

This the second time the Health Department has come before the Council with this recommendation. On September 26, the Council voted to continue the discussion after citing concern over costs and commitment.

“I am just not comfortable moving forward without more diligence,” Councilmember Andy Wilson said at the time.

“I have a strong sense of urgency, but we can’t be reckless with taxpayer dollars,” Wilson said. “I’m not going to give a third-party agency a blank check against the taxpayers and residents of Pasadena.”

Public Health Director Michael Johnson, who signed off on Monday’s report, said San Gabriel Valley Vector Control has the needed equipment, trained staff, laboratory, and science and technology capacities.

San Gabriel already provides vector control services for Altadena, Sierra Madre and Arcadia. South Pasadena is in the annexation process with the district.

In addition to vector control, San Gabriel will provide disease and vector surveillance, public education and source reduction.

Johnson said the cost estimate to provide similar services through the health department would run over a million dollars. Currently, Pasadena’s budget for vector control is $35,000, which pays for services like treating green pools and responding to complaint-driven gutter spraying.

If the Council approves the recommendation, the Health Department will submit an application to the Los Angeles Local Agency Formation Commission. Fees associated with the application process will run $12,500. Johnson said funding is already available in an Health Administration account.

There was no mention of what will become of the $35,000 previously budgeted for vector control and how those funds would be reallocated.