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Daily News Archive
From September 7, 2001

Baltimore Man May Be First Case of West Nile Virus in Washington, DC Area

A 72-year-old man who has been hospitalized in a light coma is likely Maryland's first human case of West Nile virus (WNV) according to state officials. "We are about 98 percent sure that its West Nile virus," said Arlene Stephenson, deputy secretary for public health in the Maryland State Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, according to the Washington Post (click here to read the entire article). Experts agree that WNV is generally not serious in humans. The vast majority of people that are infected with the virus do not get sick, and others may experience only slight flu like symptoms. It is important to note that exposure to the pesticides used to control adult mosquitoes can also induce flu like symptoms and other more serious health effects in people.

WNV clearly creates a difficult situation for policy makers. Spraying adulticides will expose every person in the area to some dose of pesticide. Pesticides are poisons, which is why they kill animals like mosquitoes. Click here for toxicity information about pyrethroids, the family of pesticides that is most often employed for mosquito control. The same segment of the population that is most at risk of harm from exposure to pesticides, namely children, the elderly, the chemically sensitive and those with weakened immune systems, are the same people that may be most susceptible to full blown WNV.

In order to protect public health it is critical that state officials implement a plan that focuses on educating the public about mosquito prevention, and monitors larval and adult populations as well as the virus. It is the position of Beyond Pesticides that spraying adulticides does not appear to be an effective way to prevent death or illness associated with WNV.

One of the most important steps that people need to take is to decrease the availability of mosquito breeding sites. The species of mosquitoes most associated with WNV are not strong flyers, so preventing mosquitoes from breeding in your local community can significantly decrease the risk of being bitten by a mosquito. Rid the area of all sources of standing water. Make sure that bodies of water are treated with a larvicide such as Bt. If you are outside at dawn or dusk, wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants. For more information contact Beyond Pesticides at 202-543-5450.