What’s the big public health crisis here? (update)

Number of deaths in Chester County, 2015-18 to date:

from West Nile Virus: 0.

from flu (data for those years from PA Department of Health and Philly Voice): 34 (extrapolating from 221 + 64 + 149 + 156 + 256 in PA X 520,000 approx. County population / 12,825,000 approx. PA population) (more than 80,000 Americans died from flu in the 2017-18 season; flu deaths tend to start in October)

from homicides and suicides: 7 + 52 = 59, per Chesco Coroner

from drug overdoses according to OverdoseFreePA: 415. (In the US: more than 72,000 deaths in 2017.)

Opioid deaths in Chesco and PA are rising dramatically while WNV deaths have averaged under 2 a year in the entire state, according to CDC (one so far in 2018).

Could the Health Department use its mosquito control funding more beneficially to reduce actual causes of death in the County?

Could the Chesco Department of Drug and Alcohol Services, which deals with opioid issues, put to good use the public resources that the Health Department is using to track and spray for mosquitoes?

The latest drug scourge, the herbal supplement kratom, has killed two Chesco residents this year, in April and June. Searching the County web site turns up only a 8/20/18 press release from the Coroner’s Office (which provoked attention in the media) and a couple of presentations for professionals.

Why does the County give little public attention to a drug that has killed 2 this year, compared to a flurry of spraying and press releases concerning West Nile Virus, which has killed just one person in Chester County in 2001-18? (And that one fatal WNV infection since WNV was first recorded here, in an elderly man, was acquired out of state.)

Is the County allocating taxpayers’ resources in the optimal way to support human health, safety, and well-being?

Not to mention warning Chester County residents about the dangers of pesticides and herbicides….

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Human immunity to West Nile Virus

We’ve seen prior references to some or all people bitten by WNV-positive mosquitoes acquiring immunity to WNV (see, e.g., WEbMD and a California State site). Most WNV cases have unnoticed symptoms but as in the case of other viruses, one can assume the affected individual acquires immunity. Below is the most positive statement we have seen so far, from “Mosquitoes with West Nile Virus popping up across PA” by Jack Eble, Fox43 News, 7/5/18:

…there are no confirmed cases of West Nile Virus in people, statewide.

Dr. John Goldman, infectious disease specialist with UPMC-Pinnacle, said finding a positive case in a person can be hard to find.

“Most people who’ve had [West Nile Virus] aren’t aware of it. Once you’ve had it, you’re immune. You can’t get it again,” said Dr. Goldman.

He believes most people have become immune to West Nile Virus, slowing the spread of the illness.

In 2003, Pennsylvania had 236 people test positive for West Nile Virus.

But since then, the most confirmed cases was 60 in 2012….

Trump’s EPA could allow teenage workers to handle dangerous pesticides

by Doris Cellarius, Sierra Club Grassroots Network, 1/11/18, from Huffington Post. See both sites for links to more info.

If the Environmental Protection Agency follows through with a reform now under consideration, teenage farmworkers and other working minors would once again be allowed to handle dangerous pesticides while on the job.

The EPA is now reevaluating a 2015 rule that tightened safety standards for farmworkers. In particular, the agency is considering changing or scrapping the requirement that anyone working with pesticides in agriculture be at least 18 years old.

Doctors had called for those restrictions to be put in place because pesticides can increase the risk of cancer or impact brain development in children.

The EPA may also tweak or do away with the age requirements of another recent rule, which spells out who can be certified to be an applicator of the chemicals that the EPA classifies as the most toxic. That could make it legal for minors to work with what are known as “restricted-use” pesticides, like arsenic and methyl bromide, in a host of industries beyond just agriculture, such as landscaping and pest control.

Restricted-use pesticides are not sold to the public for general use because of how dangerous they can be to people and the environment.

EPA: Pesticide Environmental Stewardship

Managed by the US EPA, “The Pesticide Environmental Stewardship Program (PESP) is a voluntary membership program that promotes the adoption of innovative, alternative pest control practices such as Integrated Pest Management (IPM). In becoming a PESP member, you join more than 250 nationally-recognized organizations committed to reducing the human health and environmental risks associated with pesticide use.”

From the Pesticide Environmental Stewardship Program Application Form:

By completing this application for membership in PESP, we affirm our commitment to the following:

We believe that environmental stewardship is an integral part of pest management practices and will continue to work toward pest management practices that reduce the risks to humans and the environment. As part of our voluntary participation in the Pesticide Environmental Stewardship Program, this organization will develop a Strategic Approach to pesticide risk reduction and implement annual Activities that fall within this Strategic Approach.

We understand that in return, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency will seek to foster, fund and promote, through research, education, and other means, the adoption of alternative pest management technologies and practices that enhance pest management and reduce pesticide risk.

The Chester County Health Department is a member of PESP.

Climate Change Makes Me Sick!

Physicians for Social Responsibility, 4/13/16

How does climate change increase Insect-borne diseases?

mosquitoes-postcard Mosquitoes carry infectious pathogens and transmit them to humans via biting. As the Earth warms due to climate change, more regions can potentially support disease-bearing mosquitoes.

The increase in heat and humidity boosts mosquitoes’ reproduction rates, lengthens their breeding season, makes mosquitoes bite more, and speeds the development of the disease-causing agents they carry (bacteria and viruses) to an infectious state….

read more at Physicians for Social Responsibility