Return of West Nile Virus Seen as Blow to City Hopes

The Citys coordinator of the West Nile Virus surveillance and mosquito control program said last week that the Health Department hopes last summers encephalitis outbreak was a "one-time event." However that wish was dashed when dead fowl infected with the microbe were found recently in Rockland and Bergen Counties.
"It appears the virus wont go away," Dr. James Miller told The Queens Courier, after a borough hall meeting to discuss the Departments draft copy of its mosquito-borne disease control plan.
Miller said that decisions about spraying the pesticide Scourge will be made if infected birds are found in the city.
"It depends on the type of bird found with the disease," he said.
Miller said a main line of defense against the disease are 14 flocks of chickens totaling 100 fowl that are positioned as "sentinels" around the city. He refused to identify their exact locations.
The DOH official was at Borough Hall on a hot summer night to brief members of the community on the status of the surveillance and control plan, but only a small handful of community activists turned out.
The public hearing was the fifth in a series scheduled by DOH in the boroughs to obtain input from the community on a "mosquito-borne disease control plan for adult mosquitoes including potential application of insecticides targeted at the offending insects."
"Its purpose, the statement read, "is to prevent the infection of humans from diseases carried by the insects in New York City."
The plan will be finalized later this summer after the DOH reviews the comments by community groups. The program submitted by the agency focuses on education, research, disease surveillance and control of larvae to prevent the occurrence of a disease outbreak.
The plan was prepared in consultation with federal, state and city health agencies.
The turnout was sparse in the jury room in the basement of borough hall. It largely included local activists who oppose spraying.
One critic, Frank Eadie, conservation chair of the Sierra Club of New York City, expressed concern for city policies that treat the outbreak too seriously.
"The spraying solution is excessive for a disease that just isnt that serious," he said.
Eadie claimed that "nobody dies of West Nile Virus. Is the cure worse than the disease?"
He noted that Rockland Countys reaction to the recent discovery of birds infected with the virus was to commence larvaciding the area and not to spray with a pesticide.
Responding to complaints that the city lacks concern for the health of the elderly, and children who might be affected by spraying, Miller noted it was aware the spraying could affect some high-risk populations.
"Spraying will be our last resort," he said.
Meanwhile, Rockland County Health Commissioner Gabriel R. Guardarramas reported last weeks that an additional two birds in the County have tested positive for the West Nile Virus.
"Since the virus had previously been identified in Rockland birds, we are not suprised by these results, and it is very possible that additional birds will test positive," Guardarramas said.

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