The Florida Keys

Screen Shot 2013-10-01 at 2.47.20 PMAn article in this week s New York Times could not possibly do a better job of summarizing our mission here at ACSH: Science-based public health policy rather than one based on fear and ignorance. Because in the Florida Keys there is no shortage of either.

The Times article entitled In Florida, the Front Lines of a High-Pitched, Bite-Size War, indirectly points out the absurdity of the anti-everything movement. And makes the antis look both illogical and idiotic.

The issue is the emergence of Dengue fever a viral infection that is spread by mosquitos. This is not something you want to catch. Although a typical infection is bad enough (fever, headache, muscle and joint pains, skin rash, and nausea and vomiting), it can sometimes progress to dengue hemorrhagic fever a life threatening condition characterized by severe bleeding throughout the body.

Dengue, which is in the same family of viruses as another killer yellow fever can be eradicated by proper mosquito control. But is such a thing possible?

The problem is, says ACSH s Dr. Josh Bloom, everyone wants mosquito control, but many people (the antis) are reflexively opposed to the use of any method that would actually accomplish this. As if there is some green method with no perceived risk that will magically make this problem go away. He adds, Welcome to the real world. Unfortunately, there is no magic potion, but there are methods that actually work. However, trying to convince Mr. and Mrs. Granola to support these methods is an entirely different story. Hence, the problem.

As the problem develops, so does opposition to doing anything about it. The current mindset in the Keys is based on ecologically friendly (read: ineffective) methods of mosquito control, with emphasis on protecting other species (including other insects).

According to Michael Doyle, the Florida Keys Mosquito Control District s executive director. The noose is tightening on our ability to control adult mosquitoes.

In other words, the focus is on environmentally friendly, but essentially useless larvicides bacteria that kill unhatched mosquitos, but have no effect whatsoever against adult mosquitoes.

So, by ACSH standards, the Keys are batting 0 for 3:

1. Larvicides may sound nice and eco-friendly, but they are also mosquito-friendly.

2. The only useful solution is to kill adult mosquitoes. Since this involves using a poison people who are terrified of all chemicals will automatically object to this. Ironically, by far the most effective poison against mosquitoes (which happens to be virtually non-toxic) is DDT. But even mentioning DDT will get you strung up to a palmetto tree.

3. To complete the tripleheader, another potentially effective method is releasing genetically modified male mosquitoes, which are built to be sterile, thus diminishing the reproduction rate by competing with the native mosquitoes. Needless to say, the opposition to this idea is fierce, thanks to the the misguided anti-GM movement.

Dr. Bloom adds, You can t do a better job of terrifying people than mentioning both DDT and GM mosquitoes in the same article. Yet, as is so often the case with issues like this, radical environmental and anti-chemical groups have done a superb job in scaring the hell out of people and for no good reason. The real risk here is Dengue, which is nothing to fool around with. But when people are convinced that the risks of mosquito control outweigh the benefits, it is an uphill battle.