Opinion

SOUND OFF: Mosquito district is not necessary

Because of the public hearing scheduled for March 24 at 3 p.m. regarding whether the county should form a Mosquito Control District, the Whidbey Island No Spray Coalition (WINS) folks have been doing our homework. Here’s some of what we’ve gathered:

One horse got mildly sick and got completely better from West Nile Virus in Island County and one bird died.

We are warned this could get a lot worse but the numbers show that even at the height of the natural cycle of WNV (historically, it hits a peak infection rate in an area and then subsides), that humans have about a one in 1 million chance of dying from WNV. Most people infected show no symptoms or mild flu symptoms.

Only less than one percent of mosquitoes carry the virus…and none of those breed in salt water. The best thing you can do for your health is to relax and not worry about this disease at all (see Newsweek cover story 2/24/03 on the effects of fear on health).

Here is a list of things you can do to reduce mosquito exposure:

l Dump any standing water on your property: buckets, gutters, old tires, swimming pool covers, boats, leaking faucets, etc.

l Change water weekly or aerate birdbaths, ornamental ponds, wading pools and animal troughs.

l Stock enclosed garden ponds and watering troughs with goldfish or other mosquito eating fish recommended by the Department of Fish and Wildlife (mud minnow, stickleback, perch and more. Call WDFW 360-902-2663 or appleaea@dfw.wa.gov).

l Vaccinate your horses (horses and birds have been shown to be more susceptible).

l Don’t use DEET on children (children are far more susceptible to toxic effects of pesticides.

l Try natural mosquito repellants such as Citronella and Eucalyptus essential oils.

l Don’t drain wetlands and greenbelts. Natural predators of mosquitoes live here in a balance that is not only important for keeping mosquitoes in check but is a “critical element in a healthy ecosystem that benefits people, water quality and wildlife” (Dept of Ecology. Draft Best Management Practices for Mosquito Control, p 9).

l Don’t spray pesticides. This is the least effective means of mosquito control, creates resistance of the mosquitoes, and is extremely toxic to fish, and other non-target species especially children!

Prevention actions are considered by every source we’ve found the most effective means of reducing exposure.

But even though these may “reduce risk of exposure in some cases,” according to the Department of Ecology, “it appears that mosquito control efforts (including pesticide use) have no effect in halting the continued spread of this virus” (WDOE Draft BMP’s for Mosquito Control. p. 3, parentheses added). Some cycles of nature we may just have to live with and hope for the best.

Do we need a $750,000 to $4 million Mosquito Control District to tell us these things? Do we need a $75,000 vote to decide if we need this district?

The only thing that the district enables the county to do that it otherwise couldn’t is collect revenue (up to 50 cents per $1000 property) and use pesticides on private property without the owners’ consent. (It actually has more -- and more alarming -- powers. see RCW chapter 17.28)

Come to the public hearing March 24, 3 p.m. at the Law and Justice Building to voice your opinion about the formation of this Mosquito Control District. More info at: www.metrokc.gov/health/westnile/.

Laurie Keith is president of the WINS Coalition.

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