Fighting West Nile Virus Requires Attention And Action

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West Nile Virus

With much of the country experiencing tumultuous weather during the early parts of spring, protecting against West Nile virus may require some extra attention, thought and planning this year.

Dry weather in the west may lead to an abundance of fertile mosquito breeding grounds as creeks and streams dry up to bogs and puddles faster than usual, while recent storms across the middle of the country and on the East coast could result in more abundant standing water for mosquitoes tolay their eggs.

Early cases of human West Nile virus infection have already been confirmed in two counties in southern Mississippi according to the Mississippi Department of Health, where warmer weather has allowed mosquito larvae to begin hatching. Although the threat of the dangerous disease has been downplayed since outbreaks from 1999 to 2002 gained national attention, West Nile virus remains responsible for thousands of illnesses and hundreds of deaths in the United States each year.

In 2006, there were 4,261 confirmed cases of human infection across 43 states and Washington D.C., resulting in the deaths of 174 people according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

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"We're talking about a disease that has the potential to affect large portions of the population with very serious consequences for public health," said Allen James, president of RISE (Responsible Industry for a Sound Environment)(R), an association that promotes the safe and responsible use of pesticides and fertilizer products in and around homes, businesses and public areas. "West Nile virus is not a threat to be taken lightly, and communities, particularly those in high-risk areas, need to be prepared."

"An Integrated Mosquito Management program is the best way to contain the spread of the virus and prevent human infections," James said. This balanced, integrated approach encompasses four components: 1) educating the public about prevention measures, 2) surveillance and monitoring of mosquitoes and West Nile virus, 3) sanitation and maintenance, and 4) natural and chemical controls.

Some critics and activists claim that the use of pesticides is unnecessary to control the threat of West Nile virus, while others, including the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and CDC disagree.

"The reality is that the risk posed by West Nile virus is far greater than any risk associated with mosquito-control products, which have all been extensively tested and are registered with the EPA at great expense," said James, noting that the EPA and the CDC support responsible pesticide use as an integral part of the solution to protecting populations from West Nile virus.

"These products are designed to enhance our quality-of-life and serve a purpose," he said. "Policy makers can't afford to endanger the lives of many by listening to unfounded claims from a few."

The following is a list of resources citizens can use to educate themselves and develop a proactive stance toward protecting their families and communities from the threat of a West Nile virus outbreak.

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