The discovery of West Nile virus coupled with a high mosquito count prompted officials from the Franklin County Public Health Department to mandate spraying in certain areas of Madison Township.

The discovery of West Nile virus coupled with a high mosquito count prompted officials from the Franklin County Public Health Department to mandate spraying in certain areas of Madison Township.

Amber Breedlove, a health communication specialist with the county, said tests conducted through the department's adult mosquito surveillance program indicated there was a significant spike in the mosquito population in Madison Township just in the last few weeks. On June 18, a trap in the township caught 16 mosquitoes. Two weeks later, on July 3, 747 mosquitoes were trapped and the presence of the West Nile virus was also discovered, she said.

Breedlove declined to give the location of the trap, citing security concerns.

"We have to make sure all the traps are left alone," she said.

Spraying was conducted in Blacklick Estates, Marwick Estates and in the Bixford subdivision off Ebright Road. Breedlove said there are no concrete plans for additional spraying, however, the decision to do more is subject to future mosquito counts.

"We generally don't schedule them," she said. "We have traps set in different areas around our communities. Once we get the information from those traps, then we decide."

She said the mosquitoes in Madison Township are being captured in what is termed a "gravid" trap, which is used specifically to collect mosquitoes that carry West Nile virus.

"Once they're caught in that trap, the mosquitoes are divided into pools of groups of 50 and tested for West Nile," she said.

She said the testing is conducted through a process called Rapid Analyte Measurement Platform (RAMP).

"It allows us to have the results back within hours," she said.

"We definitely had a mild winter, which contributes to the high count. The weather plays a part, as does standing water," she added.

While people can't control the weather, Breedlove said they can control their immediate surroundings to help reduce mosquito populations.

"The best thing people can do is eliminate standing water. It doesn't take much water for mosquitoes to breed and it doesn't take much time, either," she said, adding that residents can remove standing water on their properties by emptying bird baths and wading pools.

Breedlove said while no one has been infected with the West Nile virus in Franklin County this season, it is important that residents take simple steps to protect themselves.

"The biggest thing is to make sure to undertake personal protection," she said. "Avoid being outside from dusk to dawn (as) it's a time when mosquitoes are most active. People should wear light-colored clothing and long sleeves and long pants and make sure their doors, screens and windows are tight."

She also advised people to avoid wearing perfume or cologne while outside.

"Anything that has a heavy scent" will attract mosquitoes, Breedlove said. She did, however, recommend wearing an EPA-registered insect repellent while engaged in outdoor pursuits.

Breedlove suggested residents access the Franklin County Public Health website to obtain additional information about the department's mosquito control program.

"We have a mosquito home page. If you go to our website at myfcph.org, there is a direct link to our mosquito program," she said.