I had the privilege and pleasure to attend the National Pest Management Association’s (NPMA’s) inaugural Pests and Public Health Summit in San Antonio, Texas, at the end of November. Pest management professionals (PMPs) have long been involved in protecting public health, even if we haven’t always recognized it — or been recognized for it. If one thinks about it, however, we work in both the public and personal health spaces, protecting individuals and families in their homes, as well as working in the public health space in areas like mosquito control, and food manufacturing. The topics and speakers all demonstrated how “essential” we really are. The duality of our roles in the health of our clients and the community at large was subtly woven into the topics and the presentations.
The Summit was a professional, informative, yet low-key affair. Attendees and speakers had plenty of time for open dialog, and unlike many large events, there was a casual, collaborative feel.
Mosquitoes are probably the first pests that come to mind first when pests and public health are addressed. Fittingly, mosquitoes were well-represented on the agenda. Sacramento State’s Dr. Jimmy Pitzer, undaunted by technical issues, gave a passionate and entertaining talk on what changes in climate may tell us about what to expect with regards to vector-borne diseases. The details of the implications are far beyond my ability to communicate in this forum, and I am nowhere near as entertaining as Dr. Pitzer, but suffice it to say that as the climate changes, pests’ habitats change as well, with pests being able to move into areas that were undesirable just a few years ago.
The NPMA’s Dr. Jim Fredericks followed with a practical look at mosquito prevention services offered by PMPs. Dr. Fredericks’s talk focused on responsible advertising and communication, and application. A critical point of his presentation was the need to understand what conditions exist immediately adjacent to your client’s property, and to communicate with neighbors before treatments whenever possible. He presented several reasons, supporting a solid neighbor-outreach policy. First, a PMP can likely minimize the number of complaint and concern calls to regulators. A neighbor who suddenly sees a PMP walking around a property with a powered backpack misting device could easily be cause for concern. However, by explaining what the service entails, evaluating the neighbor’s yard for harborage or sensitive environments, and opening the lines of communication, the PMP can effect greater program effectiveness and reduced community stress.
The director of the New Orleans Mosquito Termite and Rodent Control Board, Dr. Claudia Riegel, provided an overview of mosquito monitoring in New Orleans, La., and how important it is to know which mosquitoes are being captured at any given moment. Not all mosquitoes are vectors of disease, and as most of you know, the different genera lay eggs in different settings. In addition, the distances they will fly from their harborage areas to find a bloodmeal vary greatly. Dr. Riegel was sure to point out that we, as pest prevention professionals, should install monitors at our client’s properties.
For example, Aedes mosquitoes (carriers of Zika, Dengue and yellow fever, among other disease) tend to not fly more than a few blocks during their life, whereas Culex (West Nile Virus) may easily travel 2 miles or more. If you are finding Aedes mosquitoes, you may want to consider a neighborhood awareness campaign, to help the community, your client and your business by identifying and eliminating breeding sites for long-term results, and applications for shorter-term protection.
Because the Pests and Public Health Summit evolved from the NPMA’s original Global Bed Bug Summit, bed bugs and their health implications remained a critical topic. The University of Kentucky’s Dr. Zach DeVries addressed the physical and psychological impacts of a bed bug infestation, and the harm that can come from people improperly using pesticides to eliminate bed bugs. Though bed bugs have not been shown to transmit organisms that can cause disease, a bed bug issue evolves from a personal health issue to a public health issue when one thinks about bed bugs in multi-unit housing.
My mentor, Judy Black, BCE, from Rollins, and Chris Wible from Rentokil Terminix presented on the impacts of California’s efforts to all but eliminate the use of Second-Generation Anticoagulant Rodenticides (SGARs). Their talk was a great example of the intersectionality of evolving regulations, and the business and science of professional pest management. The pair shared solid, high-level insights as to how PMPs can best respond to changes to the tools in our toolboxes. In the case of the California law, we have an opportunity to reevaluate our rodent management programs, to focus on inspections, communication, habitat modification, and the other core components of an integrated pest management (IPM) approach to make sure that our rodenticide applications are appropriate. By acting as responsible stewards, we can work toward maintaining as many of our tools as possible.
One breakout session of note was jointly presented by Mike Malone from Arrow Exterminators, and Julie Tesh-Clark from Pest Management Systems. It focused on how to market public health services while balancing the need for a sense of urgency — all while not exploiting fear. While the conversation needs to continue, just having the topic addressed was worthwhile.
During the Summit, meals — really good meals — and camaraderie sessions took place on the trade show floor. Many of our great partners from the manufacturing community were present to support the industry as we continue to define our role in the public health arena.
The Summit covered more than just public health, however. Before the main conference, the NPMA Technical Committee met to continue its invaluable work, including bed bug best management practices (BMPs), discussions of the potential impacts of new rodenticide registration changes, and food processing audit updates. This hard-working group takes on the burden of examining the intricacies of an ever-changing regulatory climate, the science behind pests and the materials and methods we use to manage them and providing real world guidance. One exciting item is the potential for establishing local (regional) technical committees to help support professional development.
Concurrent with the second day of the Summit was the NPMA’s State Policy Affairs Representative (SPAR) Meeting. The SPAR program supports state-level leaders in understanding the impacts of potential legislation, and how to actively engage with lawmakers (and their staff, which can often be more productive) to help shape the laws and regulations that impact our industry. The meeting provided updates on proposed and pending legislation from around the country, and then turned its focus to providing practical how-to guidance for the attendees.
Capping off the agenda was the State Association Leadership Forum. Unlike the SPAR program, which supports PMPs as they engage in the regulatory process, the Leadership Forum provides an opportunity for state leaders to share ideas on how to grow and serve their membership.