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Buzzing around the bush

From: WC Douglass Daily Dose April 23, 2004

Sometimes, I hate being right.

It was nearly 2 years ago when I first wrote about the westward spread of the West Nile virus in this country after its initial 1999 New York outbreak - and about how our green-leaning government refuses to employ the simplest, safest, cheapest and most effective weapon against it (and against all mosquito-borne illnesses, for that matter), DDT.

Since then, cases of the West Nile virus in humans have sprung up in all but 3 of the 48 contiguous U.S. states, and there's no end in sight. How big is the problem now? FAR BIGGER than our U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention habitually estimates. And how do we know this?

Because of the startling number of blood donors who've tested positive for the deadly virus. According to a recent Reuters online article, the more than 1,000 donors who've so far tested positive for West Nile make the virus one of the most likely diseases in the U.S. to be transmitted via a blood transfusion - a rate of prevalence one CDC expert characterized in the article as "shocking."

Yes, it's shocking. But to those of us with half a brain and the ability to extrapolate logically (our elected officials obviously don't fall into this group), it's not at all SURPRISING. Why? Because we haven't done nearly enough to stop the spread of this killer. While we've been wasting time and money attempting to develop genetically engineered mosquitoes that supposedly can't carry disease (honest-read my Daily Dose from 1/23), perfectly safe, environmentally sound, economical DDT rides the bench.

And for what? Routine politics. Those who hold office in this country are more than willing to lament the spread of West Nile when it means more money for clean-up, research and treatment being funneled into their home districts - but who among them will stand up to the public's misconceptions and scream the obvious: That we need to aggressively deploy DDT and other pesticides to eradicate as many mosquitoes as possible RIGHT NOW! (Maybe after the virus hits THEIR home districts... )

But that would mean actually SOLVING a public health crisis for good - and possibly ending the gravy train of dollars our politicians are more than happy to trade a few of our lives for.

Meanwhile, the weather warms, and this year's mosquitoes hatch anew...

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