August, 2002
Feature
Inspection News and Views from the American Society of Home Inspectors



Join ICC’s Fight Against the Worldwide Spread of West Nile Virus and Other Vector-borne Diseases

EDITED BY ASHI STAFF

The International Code Council® (ICC) has teamed up with health officials at the federal, state and local levels in the fight against West Nile and other viruses that are spread by mosquitoes. The most effective way to eradicate such viruses is to eliminate mosquitoes’ breeding areas. Adopting and enforcing the International Property Maintenance Code® (IPMC) has been found to be an effective tool code officials can use to achieve source-point reduction of mosquitoes.

The ICC joined with public and private organizations in an aggressive campaign against West Nile and forms of encephalitis. The ICC-based attack includes:

• A broad-based awareness campaign to inform governmental officials of the technical requirements of the IPMC.

• Specific training for code officials on the application of IPMC provisions source-point reduction requirements.

• Providing code officials with information on how to protect themselves from becoming infected while on the job.

What is the West Nile Virus?

West Nile virus is a mosquito-borne virus that has recently begun to present a threat to public, equine, and animal health in North America. The virus cannot be passed from person to person, but can be contracted from a mosquito carrying virus-infected blood. The most serious manifestation of West Nile virus infection is fatal encephalitis (inflammation of the brain) in humans and horses, as well as mortality in certain domestic and wild birds. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has more detailed information on the virus at www.cdc.gov/ncidod/dvbid/westnile/q&a.htm.

Human illness from West Nile virus remains rare in areas where it has been reported, and the chance that any one person is going to become ill from a mosquito bite is low. The risk still exists, however, and increases with the number of mosquitoes present. The best way to prevent the spread of West Nile virus is to attack the breeding ground of the mosquitoes that could potentially carry the disease. Areas of stagnant water should be eliminated and screens over windows and doors should be “bug tight.” Most people willingly maintain their properties according to healthy standards, but in some cases, certain guidelines must be enforced. That’s where the International Codes® can help.

How can the International Codes help?

The IPMC can help local officials enforce the clean-up of existing properties and thus combat the spread of mosquitoes and mosquito-borne viruses. Chapter 3 of the IPMC has several sections that directly address eliminating mosquito-breeding areas or preventing mosquitoes from entering buildings. Section 301.3, for example, requires the owner to maintain vacant land “so as not to cause a blighting problem or adversely affect the public health or safety.” Section 302 requires property to be graded and drained so that there will be no accumulation of stagnant water. That section also sets requirements for weeds and other excess-plant growth as well as requiring swimming pools to be clean and sanitary. Section 303.7 also addresses proper drainage of roofs and gutters. All these issues directly affect mosquito control.

Even more directly, Section 303.14 requires that insect screens be present and properly maintained and for swinging doors to have a proper closing device, Section 305 deals with the accumulation and disposal of garbage and rubbish, and Section 306 addresses the extermination of insects. Also, as with all the International Codes, the IPMC contains a sample ordinance and administrative provisions to aid in the adoption and enforcement processes. With the aid of public health agencies and other public and private entities, including the CDC, the American Association of Code Enforcement, and the American Mosquito Control Association, the ICC is conducting an awareness campaign to and through its state and local official members. The ICC will also act as a resource in all levels to health and code enforcement officials interested in implementing the IPMC as part of its mosquito-control campaign.

For more information on the IPMC or to purchase a copy, log on to www.intlcode.org. Educational opportunities are also available. Inspectors can learn more about how to apply the IPMC to their communities by logging on to www.bocai.org.

Protect yourself frommosquito bites

Health and code enforcement officials who inspect potentially infested areas should be careful to protect themselves against mosquito bites and thus lower the risk of infection. Remember, most vector-borne viruses are relatively rare, but the risk still exists. To avoid mosquito bites, eliminate standing water sources from around your home, always wear repellent and long-sleeved clothes when you areoutdoors, and stay indoors during peak mosquito hours.

Check to see what kind of organized mosquito control program–if any–exists in your area. If no program exists, work with your local government officials to establish a program. The American Mosquito Control Association (www.mosquito.org) can provide advice; its book, “Organization for Mosquito Control,” is a useful reference.