West Nile Virus in Midtown Tucson

I am writing not from the “hot zone”, but from the smaller “red hot zone” of West Nile Virus cases here in the Old Pueblo. In fact, last year I received a written warning, with the threat of a fine, for having some tufts of grass over seven inches tall in my yard (gasp!). I also noticed the installation of a mosquito trap across the street from my house. This, apparently, all related to West Nile outbreaks in the area.

In the interest of finding out what the heck was going on, I went to a presentation regarding the West Nile Virus at the Ward VI office yesterday evening. I was all set to be frustrated over the lack of effort regarding mosquito eradication, but I was pleasantly surprised.

As it turns out, mosquito eradication is the focus of governments’ approach to battling the disease. The governments include both the City of Tucson and Pima County. Their approach is to eliminate standing water and tall grass (and other “lush” vegetation) from government property, then enforce similar standards on private properties. Pesticide will also be used in some areas.

Hold it, I know what you’re thinking, “Does this mean that they’re going to pour used motor oil on puddles in the washes?” No, contrary to what the Luddites think about technology, it has provided us with a really cool new chemical for killing mosquitoes. It’s hard to imagine a pesticide being “cool”, but this new stuff really is.

This new stuff is called BTI, and no, I do not know the chemical for which the acronym stands. It kills mosquito larvae in the water by disrupting the inner digestive track. The beauty of the stuff is that it only dissolves and becomes effective only when exposed to the precise ph of the mosquito larvae’s guts; thereby presenting no threat to dogs, cats, children and other living things (including other insects). That’s cool!

There was, of course, a laundry list of things one ought to do to help one’s self and the community:

1. Remove all standing water – even minute amounts. In ideal conditions, mosquitoes can go from egg to adult in three days.

2. Cut back “lush vegetation”, including tall grass. They do not breed here, but the adults like to hang out there.

3. Continue to maintain the chemical treatment of swimming pools. The government folks have a technical term for poorly maintained pools, it is “green pools”.

4. Assist your neighbors with all of the above.

I don’t know how effective this will be regarding the disease, but it sure would be nice to be able to sit outside in the evenings again.

Note to fans: There is a new column entitled “What Magna Carta?” in the “Articles” section

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