The debate over climate change is over.
In the face of catastrophic and unprecedented natural disasters, coupled with the revelation that #Exxonknew; big business and government are finally admitting what we all see. Climate change is happening now. Meigs County is fortunate to be located in the Midwest, where the effects are not as harsh as some regions. Unfortunately, however, no region is exempt from the changes that have occurred and are still developing.
In a document titled “Preparing for the Health Impacts of Climate Change in the Midwest,” the CDC specifically lists “Vector-Borne Diseases” and “Water-Related Illness” as two main concerns for our region. Vector-borne diseases are due to habitat shift for vectors such as mosquitos and ticks. Warmer temperatures are linked to an increase in the number of deer ticks as well as a longer active season. Deer ticks transmit lyme disease, so more of them and a longer active season are associated with higher rates of infection for our area. Northern expansion of the Culex mosquito is also expected to result in additional cases of West Nile Virus in the coming years.
Meigs County Health Department has a Vector Control Plan (VCP). As part of our VCP, through cooperation with the Ohio Department of Health and grant money from the Ohio EPA, we have been monitoring the mosquito population in the county for the past four years. Every summer mosquitos are collected and shipped to ODH Zoonosis Labs for identification and testing. Our grant was approved again for 2021, so if you see the mosquito traps out in the county, please leave them undisturbed.
In the event that more threatening mosquitos arrive or higher levels of diseases are detected, we then have control measures in the plan that can be activated. We can also arrange for identification of ticks by the Ohio Department of Health. In addition, we frequently distribute literature to help citizens identify and reduce the numbers of vectors on their property. Requests for a mosquito control kit, which include a tick identification card, can be made by calling the health department at 740-992-6626.
You can also reduce the number of mosquitos around your home by bringing unwanted junk and garbage to the Meigs County Clean-Up Day on May 15th from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Fairgrounds.
Water-related illness are expected to increase because the increase in precipitation related to climate change increases the chances of illness for those who rely on untreated well water and swimming in contaminated streams. This is especially true after large rainfall events. In an effort to reduce contaminates in the water, the Meigs County Health Department is continuing to administer a grant that helps homeowners afford repairs to or replacement of existing septic systems. This grant is funded through the Ohio Water Pollution Control Loan Fund (WPCLF) from the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency. Limiting the number of pathogens coming from failing septic systems, reduces the number of pathogens available to end up in ground and surface water. The application for the sewage grant is available on the meigs-health.com website under the environmental and home sewage tabs.
We also offer bacteria testing for well water and information pertaining to flood clean-up and controlling mold in indoor areas. There is a fee associated with well water testing. Contact us for details.
To read more about the effects of climate change in the Midwest, including river flooding and temperature related illness, visit https://www.cdc.gov/climateandhealth/effects/midwest.htm
Dawn Keller is a registered sanitarian at the Meigs County Health Department.