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The other epidemic: West Nile Fever

By Alan Caruba
web posted May 12, 2003

While SARS gets the headlines, no one in the United States has died from it and swift action by our health care officials has kept this new virus at bay. That's the good news. The bad news is that the spread of West Nile Fever virus will begin this month and is likely to take a significant toll. Last year, there were 4,156 cases nationwide resulting in 284 deaths, an increase from the 149 cases and 19 fatalities that occurred between 1999 and 2001.

This summer, according to the Centers for Disease Control and the American Mosquito Control Association, WNF will spread ultimately to all 48 contiguous States. Until now, only four States had not experienced it. What most Americans do not know, however, is that AMCA has been in the nation's capital struggling to get Congress to stop the Environmental Protection Agency from restricting mosquito control professionals from spraying the larvicides necessary to keep the disease from infecting Americans from coast to coast.

From May 5 to May 7, more than a hundred AMCA mosquito control experts met in Washington, DC, to urge members of Congress to let them do their job by easing restrictions on larvicide spraying. The problem is the Clean Water Act whose intent is to reduce pollutants. While AMCA endorses the purpose of the act, rulings by the 9th and 2nd Circuit Courts have mandated issuance of National Pollution Discharge Elimination System permits before larvicides can be used. These costly permits would severely impact the budgets of the mosquito control agencies. The threat posed by the mosquitoes greatly outdistances any posed by the larvicides.

According to Joseph M. Conlon, a spokesman for AMCA, instead of helping mosquito control authorities to protect human life, the restrictions would have "the perverse effect of increasing reliance upon adulticides to address mosquito populations historically controlled more effectively and safely using proven public health larvicides." This quote comes from Conlon's testimony in October 2002 before a hearing of the US House of Representatives' Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure subcommittee on Water Resources and the Environment.

Simply stated, it's better to kill mosquitoes in their larva stage of development than to have trucks spraying pesticides to knock down the adult population. The object is to kill mosquitoes before they become a threat to the health of humans and other species.

Here again we see how the environmentally inspired Clean Water Act is having the opposite affect of "protecting" people. The EPA has stripped Americans of many of the pesticides that formerly protected them against a vast range of insect pests that spread disease or inflict millions of dollars of property damage.

Over and over again, when we see the outcome of environment laws, the result is an attack on human health or on property rights. This single reality has gone largely unnoticed by Americans who are constantly being told that environmentalism is intended to protect them in countless ways. As often as not, it doesn't.

So, here we are, entering the months in which Americans are poised to enjoy the outdoors, but must be cautioned against the threat of West Nile Fever because, insanely, the government has contrived a system that will allow the emergence of billions of mosquitoes thanks to an EPA permit requirement. Ignoring the simple, but obvious science involved, the Circuit Courts have supported this.

Earlier this month many of the nation's authorities on mosquito control journeyed to the nation's capital to beg Congress to let them do their job, i.e., to protect the lives of Americans from West Nile Fever. And, though it isn't mentioned, from other mosquito-borne diseases such as Malaria, Yellow Fever, and Dengue Fever. These diseases have largely been eliminated as a threat to public health precisely because safe, effective mosquito control procedures have been in place for decades.

The reality, however, is that, in addition to the idiocy surrounding the permit requirements, mosquito control professionals worry they are losing some of the best pesticides ever known to combat this force of nature. The most obvious example being DDT. For lack of it, 3,000 people around the world die every day from Malaria. No one in the news media seems interested in this aspect of the story, but I am. You should be, too.

Alan Caruba is the author of "Warning Signs" and posts his weekly column on the Internet site of The National Anxiety Center. © Alan Caruba, 2003

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