Rethinking Aerial Spraying for West Nile

We’ve made it pretty clear on this blog, I think, that the aerial spraying to combat West Nile has given us the fantods. With the EPA’s imperfect track record in mind (see: DDT, Malathion), I asked some experts how we should protect ourselves against the aerial assault. The foregoing led Dr. Rick Snyder to reach out to me. He’s the president of the Dallas County Medical Society. He’s also my cardiologist and one of the smartest guys I know. Rick finally got me on the phone a bit ago and spent 30 minutes beating me up with his big brain and all the information it contains about West Nile and spraying mosquitoes and epidemiology in general. Way too much to convey to you in this space. So I’ll just say this: if, like me, you’re predisposed to think that any large-scale aerial application of a poison is a bad idea, spend some time poking around on this page set up by the DCMS. But here are some points that Rick made to me that changed my thinking a bit about aerial spraying (of which there will be more).

— The stuff they are spraying is essentially the same thing you wash your kid’s hair with if he has lice.

— None of us were that freaked by the truck spraying, yet the exposure is greater from truck spraying than it is from aerial spraying.

— In all, 38 doctors were involved in the assessment of the West Nile threat and the recommendation to spray aerially. Rick tells me these folks all have big brains and that getting 38 doctors to agree on anything is nearly impossible. They unanimously agreed, after much careful study, that aerial spraying was necessary.

— Ten deaths. I’ve pointed this out before. Only 10 people have died in Dallas County. They were all elderly, and most had underlying health issues. With respect to those 10 families, that’s not a big number. To my mind, it wasn’t a big enough number to warrant aerial spraying. Rick pointed out that there have been some 260 West Nile cases in Dallas County. About 60 percent of those cases will suffer permanent neurological damage. Think polio. These people were not elderly and did not have underlying health issues.

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