Is Dallas Getting Smarter in the Fight Against West Nile?

You get a lot of dumb and dumber news here, so I figure I owe it to you to mention when things might be trending the other way. It's just possible the county's efforts to control West Nile disease could be headed in that other uncustomary direction. Smarter. Believe it or not.

Last year was awful, we all know that. Nineteen people died. Dallas County had 173 cases of the paralyzing form of mosquito-borne West Nile disease and 225 cases of the form that causes brutal fevers. Tests caught 19 people who wanted to give blood but turned out to have the disease in their systems. The incidence rate per capita was more than twice the rate in the last major outbreak in 2006.

This year is upside down from that. So far we have had only four human cases of West Nile, two of each kind, and no deaths. But according to the County Health and Human Services Department, we have way more mosquitoes this year. Entomologists say this kind of up and down cycle for the disease is typical and predictable. We can expect a worse year soon.

Daniel Fishel

Last year at the height of it, people felt they were under attack, and maybe it's understandable that some groups like the county medical society went a little daft on us. They have a lot of members who live in the heavy-lawn-irrigation district in the Park Cities and Preston Hollow gold coast, where the incidence was higher. So they were the ones calling for the Air Force to come carpet-bomb us with neurotoxins.

For whatever reasons, there was a lot of craziness in our response to the 2012 West Nile epidemic. Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins was doing map and baton lectures about the spray planes like he was about to go save Private Ryan. Every time Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings talked about mosquitoes he sounded like Winston Churchill (fight them on the tennis courts, fight them on the golf courses).

But the really crazy thing was the outcome, once there was time to go back and measure what really was accomplished by spraying toxic chemicals all over the city. A report by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a big booster of the aerial campaign in the first place, insisted the aerial spray had had some kind of measurable positive effect, but the fine print in the report said the best effect they could gin up was well within the margin of error, and way down in the fine print was the fact that our mosquito population actually increased during the spraying.

Say what? Airplanes carpet-bombing us with mosquito poison, and we have more mosquitoes, not fewer? While the bulging-eyed gin-and-tonic crowd at the medical society were out waving their putters over their heads screaming for nukes, an informal ad hoc group of residents and activists was busy assembling research from all over the country to show that the ineffectiveness of the aerial campaign should not have surprised anybody.

As it turns out, spraying chemicals from airplanes to kill flying adult mosquitoes at night is dumb. One big problem: That's not when they fly. Other big problem: If they're not flying, the poison doesn't get to them.

Meanwhile, the poison companies typically add other ingredients to their spray called endocrine disruptors to shut down the endocrine and immune systems of insects. But the same stuff also affects the endocrine systems of human beings, at least temporarily. The endocrine system governs brain development in very young children. A Harvard scientist told the Dallas citizen group no research has been done on the effect of endocrine disruptors on human development. But a scientist at UT-Austin who works in a related field said there is cause for concern.

The way things go normally around here, whatever they did last year that was dumb they should be doing again this year only dumber, like maybe go to the hospitals and fog the maternity wards. But that may not be where we are headed this time.

For one thing, the citizen group, Concerned Citizens for Safer Control (CCSC), now gives high marks to County Judge Jenkins for actually listening to them once the panic attack was over, and they give especially high marks to Dallas County Health and Human Services Director Zachary Thompson, who they say has been receptive to their central argument. They want the county to use the neurotoxins only as a last resort and go after the mosquitoes with larvicides first. They say Thompson has at least been willing to listen to argument and look at data.

Jennifer Land of CCSC told me: "We've always appreciated Zach Thompson. We've met with him several times. I think he's in the hardest position. No matter what he does, nobody thinks it's right."

Land believes the larvicide-first policy is right. In the first place, larvae are usually easier to find than flying adults. But also, larvicides are so non-toxic to mammals that it's safe to put them in your dog's water bowl. (Experiment first by putting them in your neighbor's dog's water bowl.)

Two weeks ago, CCSC delivered a letter to local officials urging the larvicide-first approach, signed by 50 people including a pretty amazing array of the city's top chefs, several scientists, garden groups, food producers, clergy and concerned residents. It was a stunning show of support for CCSC's position. No politician could smack that letter back down on his or her desk and mutter, "Damn kooks."

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5 comments
ozonelarryb
ozonelarryb

try this: google: control mosquitos with minnows

you will find that many cities and counties GIVE AWAY minnows for residents to drop in water they know about. This grass roots, local solution seems way smarter and more effective than the carpet bombing with poisons - that we are debating retaliating against in Syria.

so WTF?  maybe get a nursery to raise minnows; or Boy Scouts, etc.  local gets it done, and doesn't kill honeybees, birds, pets, etc.

anyone at the city listening to anything but monster high tech solutions?  If only..

husbandofmoonlight
husbandofmoonlight

There are NO LAWS; local, state or federal that require ANYONE to be sprayed with poison whether via ground or areal spraying FOR ANY REASON AGANIST THEIR WILL OR CONSENT.

We have been attempting to inform the public of their rights to dissent to being sprayed with poison to control a disease that CANNOT be controlled in such a manner. Currently we have had an excellent response to our webpage www.themindfuldissenters.com.

We contend and are ready to go to court to PROVE that to spray ANYONE with poison is an assault and should only be a 'voluntary' option. Without the voluntary response to allow ones self to be sprayed with poison, two Constitutional guarantees are violated; those under the 5th and the 14th Amendments. When media outlets participate in the willful and arrogant misinformation of their audiences they participate as well in the violations mentioned above.

Sooner or later the people will have their voices heard, and those who participate in the violations of their fellow Americans constitutional guarantees will be called upon by the legal system to answer to those people for those violations.

If you are one of those who has been sprayed with poison after May of this year in Dallas county when we notified Z. Thompson of the Dallas County Health Dept. of the facts (he of course has arrogantly ignored those warnings and we believe will be called upon to answer for those violations-------sooner or later----since the statute of limitations for such violations are lengthy) YOUR CONSTITUTIONAL GUARANTEES HAVE BEEN VIOLATE;  contact us at themindfuldissenters@gmail.com and we can share the vital information needed to see that those violations of your rights will be answered.

If you are a Veteran (as I am) you "earned your constitutional guarantees----at the risk of your own life"-------------DO NOT ALLOW THEM TO BE VIOLATED WITHOUT A RESPONSE AND ACTIONS.

"If the USA were any other criminal nation the 'Americans' would invade the USA to keep the world safe; and they would be justified".

Good Luck America; you will be needing it.

Husband of Moonlight

director21
director21

Hats off to Jenny Land for her efforts on this important health issue. She has spearheaded this campaign from day one because of the harmful effects on humans and animals from exposure to aerial toxins that have been shown to have little or no effect on their intended targets while posing major health problems from those we are trying to protect from West Nile.

Last year, the City of Dallas and Dallas County went leaping off a very high building just to see how big a splat they could make when they hit the ground. They had no clue about what they were doing, and everything was a knee-jerk reaction, as it usually is at City Hall and the County Courthouse. Hopefully, cooler heads will prevail and we will cease using methodology that has proven to be ineffective.

Thank you, Jenny, for getting into this fight early and staying with it so intensely.

hilllbillle
hilllbillle

so is the city going to be handing out mosquito dunks now that my beehive is gone??

husbandofmoonlight
husbandofmoonlight

@director21 You might wish to send Ms. Land our email address---since contacting us last August---she seems to have blocked our messages.

When those who are attempting the same as we 'limit' their approaches; they limit their results.

Withholding vital information to/for others is as serious an offense as those who commit the offense in the first place.

Thanking ANYONE for doing a 'half job' is offensive to those who are diligent in their efforts to assist others----Ms. Land and her group should share the same information with their readers/subscribers/members----that we have with ours. Only when all of us are united in the same goal (and we need not be united in the same approach as long as all approaches are legal as ours is) will there be any true measure of success; and that success will be for all of us to share and enjoy together.

Husband of Moonlight

 
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