Congress continues to spar over the White House’s $1.9 billion emergency funding request to fight Zika, the Senate recently approving $1.1 billion and the House $622 million with a veto threat against the latter.
The mosquito-borne virus, which causes terrible birth defects in babies born to infected mothers and paralytic disease in adults, is expected to reach some 50 U.S. cities as the weather gets warmer, extending throughout the South and up the East Coast. Five-hundred Americans have contracted the disease through visits to Latin America and the Caribbean. There is no vaccine or cure available.
It never needed to get to this point. Zika was actually identified decades ago in Africa, but until now wasn’t considered a threat to the Americas. That is because the mosquito that spreads the virus, Aedes aegypti, was practically eradicated in Latin America in the 1940s and ’50s.
DDT Almost Eliminated Zika’s Carrier Mosquitos
Eradicating Aedes was tough business until the mid-1940s when using DDT all but eliminated the mosquito and, with it, the many diseases in addition to Zika it can carry, most particularly yellow fever. It’s largely forgotten now, but in 1867 and 1888-89, yellow fever epidemics wiped out entire towns, killing hundreds and infected thousands more in Texas and Florida. Death carts appeared in the streets and yellow flags marked the homes of the diseased. Yellow fever was brought under control by 1905 but malaria continued to threaten the United States until post-war DDT spraying essentially eradicated it in this country.
The reprieve didn’t last long, however. Environmental campaigners in the 1960s and ’70s, such as Rachel Carson and Paul Ehrlich (among many others), pushed to halt the use of DDT, effectively shutting down mosquito control programs.
We know now that almost all the claims made against DDT were either false or hugely exaggerated and that it can be used safely to protect public health. None of that has stopped the activists. Buoyed by success against DDT, they continued to pressure governments and international organizations to end life-saving eradication campaigns. Even the World Health Assembly succumbed to this pressure, in 1997 passing a resolution calling for a reduction in the use of insecticides in disease control. Shamefully this occurred while Aedes aegypti-borne diseases were spreading to levels not seen since the 1940s.
Now We’re Back to Square One
Now Aedes aegypti is back with a vengeance. Pilot programs using genetically modified mosquitoes have shown some promise, but there is insufficient evidence to suggest this will work in settings like Brazil. Finding a Zika vaccine could take decades.
Tilting at windmills thinking that DDT will be accepted by the anti-science left, even if it could save millions from suffering.
All it takes is a single genetic mutation to render mosquitoes resistant to DDT and pyrethroids. The mutation occurs frequently and quickly propagates in areas were DDT is widely used by way of natural selection, owing to the high rate of mosquito reproduction and their short life cycle. The resistance is already spreading so rapidly that DDT will soon be ineffective as a malaria control. It worked very well before mosquito populations developed resistance.
We’re soon going to be hit by a similar problem with antibiotics. A strain of e. coli resistant to the final-line-of-defense antibiotic has now appeared inside the United States.
@Greg: Rotation of pesticides can be effective, the little bastids hate garlic and in high enough concentration it kills. Ponds and standing water can be treated.
My favorite is a bug zapper, little flashes of light and a zzzttt noises, the birds feast in the morning.
Rachel Carson has been called the worst mass murderer in history.
All to satisfy her own ego.
Funny how the Greenies believe that it’s okay to kill millions of people to maybe save a few birds, but it’s not okay to shut down a bird blender to save many.
People can die, wind towers must remain.
There will be no Congressional response to the threat of Zika because of things having little or nothing to do with Zika.
Zika funding stalls in the Senate amid partisan rift
@Greg: Are you not the same person that denied mutations to Ebola virus to support Obama bringing cases to the us?
No, I wouldn’t have denied that viruses mutate. It’s fundamental to their nature that they constantly do so. I very likely would have defended Obama’s position that medical personnel who contracted Ebola while fighting the epidemic abroad should be allowed to return to the United States to undergo life-saving treatment. As far as I’m concerned, it’s the same as evacuating American soldiers seriously wounded in battle. Our isolation protocol for highly infectious diseases is very sophisticated. The conditions under which Ebola becomes an epidemic are well understood. Unfortunately, it is far more difficult to contain infectious outbreaks of ignorance and hysteria.
@Greg: That is not what you said then. You defended Obama bringing Ebola patients here when most other here were against it. You were also against quarantine because Ebola was not supposed to be transmitted in the air.