By Alan Caruba
I’ll bet you didn’t know that the American Mosquito Control Association (AMCA) held its 75th annual meeting in New Orleans in early April. It had nearly one thousand attendees according to the report out of its Mount Laurel, New Jersey headquarters.
As a youngster, almost as long ago as when the AMCA was founded, I can recall the torment of New Jersey’s mosquitoes. During the spring and throughout the summer, they were ever present. These days it is a rare occasion to find one buzzing around inside one’s home or apartment. Why is that?
The short answer used to be DDT and, in more recent times, the development of a variety of pesticides that effectively “knock down” the mosquito population. Before its invention and use during World War II, mosquito abatement programs mostly consisted of “the ditching of marshlands” to reduce the habitat where mosquitoes bred in the millions. From 1935 through 1950 that’s how New Jersey dealt with mosquitoes.
In the next twenty years, killing mosquitoes got a lot easier, but in the 1960s Rachel Carson wrote a screed against DDT and, in the wake of the environmental movement and from the earliest days of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, a primary target for elimination became pesticides, not the pests that spread disease.
These days, the AMCA is a “partner” in the EPA’s Pesticide Environmental Stewardship Program whose goal is “reducing pesticide risk.”
Let me tell you what the real risk is.
I shall do so in the words of the AMCA. “Mosquitoes cause more human suffering than any other organism—over one million people die from mosquito-borne diseases every year. Not only can mosquitoes carry diseases that afflict humans, they also transmit several diseases and parasites that dogs and horses are very susceptible to.”
Okay, I hear you saying, hey, Malaria is something that just kills off Africans. Well maybe you’ve heard of something called West Nile Fever. Thanks to some mosquitoes that hitched a ride on an international flight, “Since 1999, nearly 29,000 cases of West Nile Virus, with more than 11,000 neuroinvasive disease and more than 1,000 fatalities have occurred in the United States, the world’s most advanced nation.”
West Nile Fever was the star of the AMCA meeting this year which also included a symposium “on the future of Public Health Pesticides.”
I will tell you what the future is now that Carol Browner is President Obama’s “environmental czar” and Lisa Jackson, formerly of New Jersey’s Department of Environmental Protection, is heading up the EPA.
The future is an all-out effort to ban or restrict the use of any insecticides that might actually protect PEOPLE against the transmission of West Nile Fever or any other disease organism by a mosquito or other insect species. Then add to their hit list the rodenticides that kill off rats and mice.
Mosquitoes also transmit Dengue and Yellow Fever. They transmit dog heartworm. Then there’s an equine disease that can also infect humans, and a couple of others. All occur in many States throughout the nation even if you don’t hear much about them.
As Joe Conlon, Technical Advisor for the AMCA, points out, “As the world shrinks through trade and tourism, we can expect to be continually challenged by exotic diseases far worse than West Nile Virus only an 8-hour plane flight away.” And, dear reader, your primary line of defense are the unsung heroes of the AMCA, part of the nation’s public health infrastructure, working to combat mosquitoes.
As if mosquitoes weren’t enough to worry about, pest management professionals in New Jersey and throughout the northeast are gearing up to combat Lyme Disease, transmitted by ticks.
A little known fact about ticks is that they also transmit diseases that include babesiosis, ehrlichiosis, bartonella or tularemia. There are, in fact, more than a hundred different strains of Lyme disease and the Northeast is a major region for infections, but it has also been reported in 49 States because more than fifty species of migratory birds spread the tick population in addition to deer and other creatures.
Why am I telling you this? Because Mother Nature in all her glory and beauty has an arsenal of mosquitoes, ticks, cockroaches, and other insect species lining up to kill you if they can. Or, at the very least, to make you very ill.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is aptly and correctly named. It exists to protect the “environment”, but behind its green doors are people whose war on any pesticide use anywhere demonstrates that they have a greater concern for the welfare of mosquitoes, ticks, and other creatures than for you, your children, or your pets.