Over in North Philly, Emily Kehoe tramples through an overgrown back alley as a fierce-sounding dog locked up nearby barks like mad. Kehoe ignores the mutt and presses on, stepping over brambles and trash to a trap set the day before.
“There are leaves, buckets, tires, everything mosquitos like,” says the mosquito surveillance and control technician for the city’s Health Department. “I just saw this area yesterday, thought it’d be a good place for a trap, set one up, and we’ll see if we caught anything.”
She did – dozens upon dozens of Aedes albopictus mosquitoes, which like to breed in the small puddles that form inside old tires, discarded buckets, or broken bottles.
“It is an interesting job, that’s for sure – like nothing I’ve had,” says Kehoe, who has a master’s degree in public health. “I’m crawling through alleys, looking in people’s yards for standing water. I do get some strange looks, but once I explain that I’m here to help them get rid of mosquitos, they are fully on board… most of the time.”
Kehoe is on the lookout for Zika, West Nile, and other nasty viruses spread by the bloodsucking bugs. Every day, the city readies itself for a dreadful tomorrow. Officials monitor the outbreaks of diseases and the predicted paths of distant hurricanes. If there is an emergency on this day, the city has 15,552 water bottles on hand, just in case. It’s work that goes unnoticed. And everyone, including those who do it, hope that’s the way things stay.
By Jim Saksa