It seems that some people demand that a 'crisis' be present at all times. If one doesn't exist, it is created. One of the current creations is West Nile Virus.
It was first recognized in Uganda in the late 1930's. It may have been introduced to North America by a germ warfare laboratory near New York City, and released when the lab was destroyed by a hurricane. Anyway, it's here now, to stay.
West Nile is a virus of birds. It is probably spread by waterfowl, ducks and geese, but is lethal to corvids - crows and jays. It is spread between birds by a few species of mosquitos that live off birds, almost totally Culex spp. On occasion, a human is infected by one of those mosquitos. Nearly always, human infection is minor, even totally unnoticed by those infected. And, unlike many viral diseases, influenza in particular, there is no evidence that one person with West Nile can transmit it to another.
However, in one person out of ten thousand or so, West Nile gets into their brain resulting in encephalitis. In about 10% of these cases, the person dies. The death rate is trivial compared to many other human deseases, influenza in particular.
The reaction to West Nile, particularly that of the
press, has become a triumph of panic over both science and common sense. (As
usual, of course, those who panic are the first to accuse those who disagree
with them as being unscientific and irrational.) Many jurisdictions,
This response is grossly anti-science, and anti-health. Spraying of
neurotoxins such as Malathion makes the danger to us
First, predators are more active than their prey, or they couldn't catch
them. Neurotoxins such as Malathion target the source
of animal activity - the nervous system. So, spraying will kill mosquito
predators faster than it will kill the mosquitos
themselves. Amongst the data confirming this is some from a wetland in the
It has also been shown that Malathion absorbed at only 1 ppm of body weight by frogs depresses their immune systems to the point that they are almost defenseless against diseases in their environment. (Env.Toxicol.Chem. 22(1):101-110 2003) Frogs are a significant predator of mosquitos, both larva and adult.
Second, mosquitos which transmit
Fourth, widespread use of toxins to kill insects breeds genetic resistance. This is well documented in malarial regions of the world. (cf. Insect Mol.Biol. 11,409 2002) We should not use any toxin in a widespread manner against insects unless the health benefits are sufficient to outweigh the need to continually adapt those toxins to the resistant insects that result. In the case of West Nile Virus, no such benefit exists.
Spraying to kill mosquitos will increase the
Some further reading and references:
Maine Environmental Policy Institute
Rachel's Environment & Health News
Canadian Institute of Child Health