by Nathaniel Smith, Politics: A View from West Chester, 8/9/16
Zika virus is transmitted by mosquitoes and people.
So, health authorities have been working on the twin challenges of eradicating mosquitoes and educating people.
Transmission of Zika virus from mosquitoes to people (and vice versa) in the continental US has occurred only in one small tropical enclave: a square mile (or now it seems even less) of Miami. Pennsylvanians might worry about catching zika from travelers returning from the Rio Olympics but not from mosquitoes this summer so far north. (1)
However, we should be worrying about the effects of being sprayed with pesticides, of which there is really no safe level for the environment and human exposure.
As someone involved in the current campaign to cut down on both mosquitoes and pesticide spraying in West Chester, I think we can learn a lot from zika, even if it is not currently being transmitted by mosquitoes anywhere near us.
Many insects, like the viruses that attack the human body, reproduce quickly and can develop resistance to whatever we throw against them. As doctors turn from one antibiotic to another to find one that still kills a given virus, so health officials experiment to see what still kills different mosquito species.
The Aedes aegypti mosquito, the chief transmitter of zika, is particularly problematic for traditional mosquito elimination programs and the standard anti-mosquito pesticide permethrin, a pesticide usually applied from ground-based equipment such as trucks. (2)
Aedes aegypti has been acquiring immunity in Thailand (3) to permethrin and even to DDT (which was banned in the US in 1972 after severe impacts such as almost driving our national bird into extinction); and similarly in Mexico (4) and, more recently, in Puerto Rico (5) and now Florida. (6)
As time goes on, scientists have to look farther up the pesticide chain—with further likely risks—to find more effective pesticides. This is not good news….
read more and see end notes at Politics: A View from West Chester, 8/9/16