Tuesday, July 19, 2005

The Paranoia of West Nile

Another summer, another round of West Nile virus paranoia. Today, while looking at cnn.com, I found they created a "special report" on the state of the mosquito-borne virus in the US: "The Future of West Nile Virus." While a media member myself, this is one of those times where I have to call into question the people coming up with story ideas. West Nile appeared in the US a few years ago. The states in the Northeast, petrified this was some sort of bubonic plague (which I think we need anyway because there are just too many damn people in this world), started spraying pesticides in our neighborhoods and dropped killer tablets into sewers and other still-water areas. What was the result? The virus spread further each year and is now found in virtually every state. Great job, folks!

What confounds me is the amount of effort municipalities and politicians put into trying to eradicate this virus. Despite the millions of dollars spent and the contamination in the environment (it's widely believed the pesticides are responsible for the lobster die off in Long Island Sound the past several years) the virus is still here. What's even more astounding is we're going through all this trouble and drumming up all of this worry for an illness that effects so few people! More people die of heart attacks in a given day in NYC than contract West Nile in all of New York State in a year! You would think this alien virus is a sign of the end of the world. It's bullshit.

As a reporter for a newspaper last year, I was charged with writing a story on this and I couldn't even get the local health commissioner to answer why we're wasting so much time and effort to eradicate something that poses such a low risk to humans. Unless you can kill EVERY SINGLE MOSQUITO that carries this virus, you can't and won't wipe it out. Achieving that is impossible. So why are we bothering?

It's time for people get real about West Nile. It's here. It's not going away. So, deal with it and move on. The chances of anyone contracting the virus is slim to none. So, there's nothing to worry about. You should worry more about what you eat every day and how safely you drive. And it's time our cowardly politicians start dealing with this realistically. Stop wasting taxpayer money on untested pesticides on a threat that is so incredibly miniscule that there is no justification for its use.


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