The widespread West Nile virus epidemic could have been easily prevented if more rigorous insecticide spraying had been implemented in the summer of 1999, when the virus was first detected in birds in the NY region, said ACSH's Dr. Gilbert Ross, in yesterday s Dispatch. But ACSH advisor Dr. Michael Osterholm, director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota, would like to clarify Dr. Ross statement: Though in principle he is in favor of using insecticides to combat mosquito-borne diseases, in this instance, Dr. Osterholm offers a different opinion.
Insecticides, he says, would not have done much to curb the spread of West Nile virus even back in 1999. This is because the mosquitoes harboring the virus were already present in the U.S. in droves and were no longer susceptible to "eradication" with insecticides, even early on. One would have had to begin spraying at the source, he says, effectively preventing the virus-carrying mosquitoes from reaching our shores.
Thus, while in principle, we maintain our stance on insecticides in this instance, we stand corrected, and we thank Dr. Osterholm for his insight and expertise.