Wednesday, August 08, 2012

Why rule out aerial spraying to control West Nile virus?

By Gabriel Escobar / Editorial Writer 

This was the scene in and around Sacramento back in 2005. Over several summer nights, two Piper Aztec airplanes sprayed insecticide, covering 222 square kilometers. They flew at 130 knots for three to six hours, the altitude varying depending on whether there were “tall towers and buildings.”

Local health officials resorted to aerial spraying because the land-based tactic, using trucks, failed to control  a severe epidemic of West Nile Virus. Was it an effective response? Here’s what researchers concluded, in a study published by Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in 2008.

Our findings….indicate that aerial application of pyrethrin in 2005 successfully disrupted the [West Nile Virus] transmission cycle, and that this treatment was responsible for an abrupt decrease in the number of human cases within treated areas compared with that in the untreated area. These results provide direct evidence that aerial spraying to control adult mosquitoes effectively reduced human illness and potential deaths from WNV infection.”

As we know, Dallas County rejected this approach yesterday. Now I’m not here to argue that it we should resort to planes, but I am wondering whether Zachary Thompson, the director of the county’s health and human services department, fully weighed the pros and cons of aerial spraying.

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