Poloncarz Expresses Concern over Threat of West Nile Virus

ERIE COUNTY, NY – In response to a recent discovery by the New York State Department of Health (NYSDOH) that several mosquito traps in the Town of Amherst have tested positive for West Nile Virus*, County Executive Candidate Mark Poloncarz admonished the Collins administration for effectively eliminating the County’s Vector and Pest Control programs. These programs are not only the county’s central resource for rat control, but they also provide funds for efforts to proactively reduce the risk of mosquito-borne diseases.

“New York State needs a partner in Erie County government to prevent the spread of West Nile Virus,” Poloncarz said. “The County Executive should be concerned with protecting the public health of its citizens, no matter what. Chris Collins is only concerned with doing the minimum of what the county is legally obligated to do, but it’s not enough. The taxpayers of Erie County deserve more.”

Former County Executive Joel Giambra started Project SWAT, a partnership between Erie County, the NYSDOH and various town governments for vector control, which was set up following the detection of West Nile Virus in 25 birds in Erie County in 2000**. Through the program, mosquito larvicide was supplied to partnering towns – which included Amherst – to help combat the spread of mosquitos that could potentially carry West Nile Virus.  Additionally, the county provided several thousand dollars a year specifically for West Nile Virus testing through the county’s Public Health Lab.

In 2009, although Chris Collins eliminated all funding for Project SWAT, $70,000 was restored by the Legislature in order to supply towns with larvicide for one more year***. However, by 2010, all county funding for Project SWAT and West Nile Virus testing had been eliminated. Earlier this year, Legislator Tom Loughran (D-Amherst) attempted to include funding for larvicide in a resolution that restored $70,000 in funding to rodent control efforts, but it was defeated****.

“Chris Collins raised your taxes while cutting programs that protect the public, like rodent control and Project SWAT,” Poloncarz said. “These are serious public health risks, especially for young children and the elderly, that Collins is simply ignoring. In short, the policies of Collins put the public’s health at risk. His priorities are not those of the community. Instead of funding the mosquito larvicide program at $70,000 per year, he gave a $50,000 raise to his county attorney. As your County Executive, I will ensure that the public’s health is a top priority.”

* WGRZ: “West Nile Virus Found in Amherst,” August 27, 2011, http://amherst.wgrz.com/news/news/58621-west-nile-virus-found-amherst
**  “Erie County Health Department of Environmental Health Rabies, Disease & Vector Control Program 2008 & 2009 Progress Report,” http://www2.erie.gov/health/sites/www2.erie.gov.health/files/uploads/pdfs/VectorControlAnnualReport0809.pdf
*** Buffalo News: “Municipalities granted $70,000 for larvicide,” July 19, 2009, http://www.buffalonews.com/incoming/article3577.ece
**** Buffalo News: “County OKs $70,000 to help control rodents,” April 15, 2011, http://www.buffalonews.com/city/communities/erie-county/article393399.ece