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.