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Edison stocks minnows to combat mosquitos

By KATHY CHANG

Staff Writer

EDISON — Some 1,000 fathead minnows — noted feeders on mosquito larvae — swam off in a pond located at 150 Meadow Brook Road in Edison, a natural habitat owned by the state.

Although the area is serene, it’s primal for mosquito breeding. The area in Edison is just one site that state, county, and local officials are stockpiling mosquito larvae-eating fish to aggressively combat the threat of the Zika virus and other mosquito-borne diseases.

“The mosquito that carries Zika is not found in New Jersey; however, locally we are focused on prevention,” said Christopher Rinn, assistant commissioner for the New Jersey Department of Health.

If ever a mosquito carrying the Zika virus was spotted in New Jersey, Rinn said they would have a full arsenal to meet the threat.

Zika is a viral infection that is usually spread by the bite of an infected Aedes mosquito.

State, county and local officials came together in Edison on June 30 to stress the importance of prevention during National Mosquito Control Awareness Week.

State Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) Commissioner Bob Martin said the Christie administration is committed to providing county mosquito control partners with the best possible means to monitor and reduce mosquito populations throughout the state.

The DEP’s Office of Mosquito Control Coordination and the state Mosquito Control Commission work closely with all 21 county mosquito commissions and agencies to reduce mosquito breeding habitats.

To date, the state has offered $500,000 in grants to county mosquito control units for reimbursements incurred for mosquito control, monitoring and identification efforts, as well as supplies and additional staffing.

The state purchased and provided all counties 21,000 mosquito dunks — ecologically safe tablets placed in standing water to destroy mosquito larvae before they hatch into adult mosquitos and purchased 42 motor-powered mosquito traps — two per county — which are used to capture hundreds of mosquitos for future identification and testing of viruses.

“So far we have provided over 150,000 fish to the counties and we anticipate providing 500,000 fish by the end of the [summer] season,” said David Glass, deputy commissioner of the DEP, who noted that since 1991 they have stockpiled more than 4.4 million fish throughout the state.

The amount of fish being released this year, Glass said, has been a little bit more than they have released in the past just to be more proactive.

These fish are raised at the Charles O. Hayford State Hatchery in Hackettstown, Warren County, officials said.

In addition, the state purchased four distribution tanks to assist in the transport of mosquito-eating fish throughout the state and purchased five holding tanks that temporarily hold mosquito-eating fish to assist in counties in their distribution of fish.

As for precautions that residents can take, Glass said it’s important for residents to be cognizant of the fact that standing water plus seven days equals mosquitos.

“If you have a tarp over a pile of wood in your backyard, flower pots, trash cans even a cup of coffee that was there after rainstorms … take the water out because standing water plus seven days equals mosquitos,” he said.

Jay Elliot, Edison Township’s health director, said on a local level they have provided important links and prevention tips on the township’s website at www.edisonnj.org for residents.

Elliot said they urge vigilance and any calls from the public about standing water that they should be aware of on public and private properties.

For more information visit www.state.nj.us/dep.

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