Monday, 22 July 2013

Are we on the Right Course in Combatting Insect-Borne Disease? - an editorial


My heart goes out to the Brandon man struggling to get his life back after contracting debilitating West Nile virus from an infected mosquito. Public comments by his sister, including the inference that we should be more diligent in spraying for the West Nile mosquito, are understandable. 

However, they do raise some questions for me. 

The first is, does the City of Brandon not spray for the such mosquitoes now? (There is no mention of this in the news stories I have seen.) If it does, this begs the question, is malathion as effective as it is cracked up to be for this purpose? (Malathion, by the way is an organophosphate - a member of the same family of insecticides which killed some 20 children at a school in India recently.) 

The National Round Table on Environment and Economy (a valuable think-tank now defunct thanks to the Harper wrecking crew) warned a couple of years ago about the increase in "vector-borne" diseases (ones carried by insects) due to climate change. Sadly, this warning and others similar to it have gone unheeded by government, industry and members of the public themselves. 

We do nothing to counter the ravages of climate change (like curbing our consumption of fossil fuels), yet we cling to band-aid solutions like spray programs which may be worse than questionable. They may actually be counter-productive. How do we know, for example, whether they are not actually reducing the numbers of dragon-flies, a natural enemy of the mosquitoes?  As long as we cling to "quick-fixes" like mosquito-spray programs, the further we push back effective, long-term solutions into the dim-&-distant future.

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