Columbus Public Health officials are calling on residents to help control mosquitoes and fight the spread of the West Nile virus.

Columbus Public Health officials are calling on residents to help control mosquitoes and fight the spread of the West Nile virus.

Eliminating standing water can go a long way in eradicating the pests, said Jose Rodriguez, spokesman for the city's health authority.

Children's toys, discarded tires, stopped-up gutters and downspout troughs provide fertile ground for the insects, which can repopulate in very small amounts of water, Rodriguez said.

Even bird baths are a source for larvae, so residents are asked to frequently refresh the water, he said.

Rain barrels, a new trend in many areas, also should be frequently monitored, Rodriguez said.

People also can help by wearing insect repellent, staying indoors and wearing long sleeves and pants during early-morning and late-evening hours, and checking and repairing window screens.

Since May, Columbus Public Health has been responding to reports of standing water and treating it, when appropriate, to avoid mosquito growth.

"We base it on residents' complaints and we also survey the area," Rodriguez said.

This month, health workers began conducting tests for West Nile virus in the mosquito population.

That will help determine where to deploy forces in spraying for mosquitoes and dropping chemicals in standing water, Rodriguez said.

"What we do now will have an impact in several weeks when we see the mosquito population grow," he said.

"We depend on our residents to provide us information on where they see standing water. It's really a partnership with our residents."

In 2012, 214 mosquito pools submitted by Columbus Public Health were confirmed positive for West Nile virus by the Ohio Department of Health Zoonotic Disease program, Rodriguez said.

There were five known human cases of the disease in Franklin County with 121 total known cases in Ohio, he said.

The city will begin spraying neighborhoods the first week of July.

Before sending trucks into neighborhoods, the city considers a variety of criteria, such as locating a substantial mosquito population and identifying where vector-borne diseases, such as West Nile, currently are found or have been detected in the past.

"We just don't spray for nuisance," Rodriguez said. "We spray for controlling disease."

Luke Jacobs, section chief of the division of environmental health, said the city uses pyrethrum-based pesticides derived from chrysanthemums.

The pesticides are considered safe for humans and environment, he said.

However, the pesticide does kill other winged insects, so the city sprays in the early morning when mosquitoes are most active and other insects are not, Jacobs said.

Likewise, the city does not spray around apiaries.

In addition, the city uses pesticides containing the BTI bacterium to combat larvae in standing water.

It, too, is considered safe for humans and the environment, and is even available at many hardware stores, Jacobs said.

Residents are notified when spraying will take place so individuals can ask to be removed from the list, Jacobs said. Trucks will turn off the spray within 150 to 200 feet of an individual property and will resume spraying after that, he said.

Still, individuals are asked to avoid the spray as much as possible, he said.

"Everyone has different sensitivities to different chemicals so certainly we would recommend that people not come into direct contact with the chemicals," Jacobs said, "but there's no evidence that the chemicals are harmful to humans."

Those looking to register mosquito-related complaints can call 614-645-3111.