West Nile Outbreak Warrants Pest Control — Pesticide Spraying Included

This year, Texas is experiencing its worst outbreak of the mosquito-transmitted West Nile virus ever. Fortunately, most people who get it won’t suffer the severe symptoms — some won’t even notice they have been infected, and others will experience a range of flu-like symptoms. But the bad news is, some people will suffer severe, painful and even a debilitating illness with permanent neurological damage, and some will die.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) tracks the number of cases reported around the country. Texas appears to be experiencing the worst outbreak, but the problem affects many states and the illnesses and death toll will continue well into the fall. In fact, most cases occur late summer and into late fall, so we have many months to go.

Some greens suggest that we should not bother to control the disease using pesticides, because most people are not affected. But even a handful of unnecessary deaths and horrible suffering of those who get the illness warrants action. When deciding to spray, Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings explained: “I cannot have any more deaths on my conscience because we did not take action.” Dallas County has begun aerial spraying of pesticides for the first time  in 45 years.

Greens second guess the expertise of the local public health officials working to control mosquito populations and disease transmission — suggesting the activists somehow know better. I’ve presented at several meetings of the American Mosquito Control Association, which represents local mosquito control officials around the nation. The members include highly educated, hard-working people with PhDs in biology, entomology, etc., who work in concert with a host of other experts to protect communities around the nation. I’d rather put my confidence in their decisions over environmental activists who have exhibited a callous disregard for the people who suffer from West Nile.

Citizens should also work to protect themselves and their families by using insect repellant, particular the one that works the best — DEET.

Unfortunately, we can count on green groups to hype the risks and contribute to unfounded fears that might even reduce public health officials’ abilities to minimize risks. The hype can only be tempered by groups offering more balanced information. I recently found a very good article on the topic by a former organic farmer and inspector, Mischa Popoff, who contacted me regarding my recent article on pesticides residues found on food.

In addition, those looking for more information can check out some of CEI’s materials on the topic listed below.

CEI study:  West Nile Virus An Examination of Environmentalist Claims

Pesticide and chemical fact sheets on our coalition site SafeChemicalPolicy.org, particularly:

Pesticides and Your Health
Are Pesticide Laws Strong Enough?
Chemicals and Health in Perspective
Cancer Risk Factors
Cancer Trends