Aerial spraying raises concerns over effect on bees, organic farming.
The country’s West Nile death count is at least 26 so far this year after two more virus-related deaths were confirmed Tuesday. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly 700 cases have been reported in Alabama, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Oklahoma and other states so far this year. This is the largest outbreak since 2004.
Dallas County, where 10 have already died from the disease this year, has declared an emergency. For the first time in over 40 years, they’re launching an aerial attack with five planes spraying pesticides over more than 360,000 acres.
The aerial pesticide, called Duet, is composed of two synthetic products that imitate chemicals found in chrysanthemums. The spray targets insects’ nerve activity and kills adult mosquitoes on contact. Both ingredients in the spray have been approved by the EPA and the toxins are supposed to have no effect on mammals.
The tropical disease is spread to humans through mosquitoes, which become infected via birds. Originating in Uganda, the first known U.S. case was documented in New York City during the summer of 1999.
However, many Dallas residents are concerned about the potential effects on the ecosystem. The spray is toxic to fish and other aquatic life, and is suspected of harming the bee population. The Texas Honeybee Guild has already reported losing a colony to the effects of the pesticide and organic farmers are worried that they’ll no longer be able to grow or sell certified produce.
The extreme weather this year may be the cause of this year’s outbreak. The mild winter and extremely hot summer provided ideal breeding conditions for mosquitoes. The rainy spring in Dallas left plenty of standing water for egg-laying, according to TIME magazine.
Health officials are telling concerned residents to use insect repellents, drain standing water, wear long sleeves and pants and to take extra precautions around dawn and dusk. Those concerned about the effects should stay indoors during nightly sprayings, cover ponds and swimming pools and be sure to wash any homegrown produce.