Alien Mosquito Could Trigger Expanded Spray Schedule

A team of 10 Fordham University medical entomologists (insect scientists) said Tuesday that increasing numbers of Asian mosquitoes which bite during daylight hours have tested positive for the West Nile virus in dead birds found in Westchester and Putnam counties.
This new find, according to Dr. Richard C. Falco at Fordhams Armonk laboratories, may mean that day and evening pesticide sprayings could be ordered if the Aedes japonicus mosquitoes are discovered biting humans. The epidemic last year and bird infections this summer are believed to originate from the night-biting Culex pipiens mosquito or common household mosquito.
"If there is evidence of japonicus biting humans," Falco said, "health departments may have to change conservative spraying strategies and spray both night and day to destroy the mosquitoes when they are active.
Falco said little is known of the japonicus which first appeared in New York in 1998 except that it carried a Japanese form of encephalitis.
The Fordham scientists view was backed up by Dr. Jonathan Day, professor of medical entomology at the University of Florida. He joined this week with the Fordham insect researchers to determine the extent of the Asian invasion.
The county health departments of Westchester and Putnam retained the Fordham scientists to further study the japonicus, according to the University spokesperson, Michele Snipe.
Falco and Vector Ecologist Thomas J. Daniels have been monitoring mosquitoes in Westchester and Putnam counties since April, when they were awarded the contracts to conduct surveillance.
Falco and Daniels sent their Aedes japonicus sample to the New York State Department of Health earlier this month for more testing.
Fordham said Falco and Daniels have played "an instrumental role in assisting city, state and federal officials in addressing the outbreak of the West Nile virus, which began in September of 1999.
The Center for Disease Control and Preventions Dr. Stephen Ostroff, the West Nile virus czar, said that japonicus has been found in Connecticut, New Jersey, Ohio and Pennsylvania.
Other related developments this week included the following:
Breast cancer patient advocates charged on Monday that a Mount Sinai Medical Center study of Anvil and Scourge, the pesticides used to counteract West Nile virus, expose breast cancer patients to further spread of the disease.
West Nile virus czar Dr. Stephen Ostroff of the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, met at New York University Medical Center and North Shore University Hospital on Tuesday to update officials on the status of the virus this year.
U.S. Senator Charles Schumer moderated a session with area health officials at North Shore to provide an update on the West Nile virus.
City Parks Department officials announced on Monday that the destructive Asian long-horned beetle, which devoured thousands of trees in Brooklyn have turned up in three maple trees in the 1,255-acre Flushing Meadows-Corona Park.
An article in Tuesdays New York Times reported that a colony of Argentine ants stretching more than 600 miles from San Diego to north of San Francisco were "ruthlessly killing and displacing native ants in California. "
Laura Weinberg an ecological official for the Town of North Hempstead and environmental specialist for a Long Island breast cancer prevention group, rapped area health departments for "excessive spraying."
She said that Anvil and Scourge are new to the market and will not be studied for safety by the Environmental Protection Agency until 2002.
"The spraying with these pesticides is an uncontrolled experiment," she said. "Experts at Cornell University reported in a study that only one percent of targeted mosquitoes are being killed."
Another official of the breast cancer coalitions, North Hempstead Environmental Commissioner Patti Wood said "this is not just about fish," (a remark made by Mayor Rudy Giuliani).
In the Mount Sinai study directed by Dr. Mary Wolff, it was reported that "estrogen has been shown to increase cell reproduction. Sumithrin, the active ingredient in Anvil, has been shown to increase levels of estrogen in breast cancer cells."
The Queens Courier caught up with Ostroff at a briefing at North Shore University Hospital.
He called the spraying with Anvil and Scourge as "appropriate under the circumstances. Its the option we chose."
Ostroff admitted, however, that he is not an authority on pesticides.
The hour briefing moderated by Schumer never made any mention of pesticide spraying, a subject that is fiercely controversial.
Ostroff, one of several area medical experts, at the conference, said that "we can expect to see cases of West Nile virus in the next few weeks inasmuch as mosquitoes become more active in this time period."
He expressed hope that the extensive spraying over the past few weeks would minimize human infections.
Another official, Dr. Kathleen Gaffney, Health Commissioner of Nassau County, said that last summer there was poor coordination between various medical disciplines and information was not shared as it should have been.