Will Queens Escape Brunt of Virus Assault

Remembering The Last Three Years Of West Nile Virus
The helicopters swooped low over the Arthur Ashe Tennis Stadium, where thousands watched the U.S. Open, and sprayed the pesticide and then flew over Shea Stadium and unloaded their cargo on thousands of other fans watching the Mets play.
Now, two years later, the U.S. Open is about to start (Aug. 27) and the Mets have a Labors Day weekend game scheduled with the Florida Marlins.
The question is, will Queens be spared an assault by the mosquitoes or will they continue to target Staten Island, where last week a 73-year-old woman became the first human to test positive for the West Nile virus.
As a result, Mayor Giuliani and Health Commissioner Neal L. Cohen have ordered spraying in Northern Staten Island and indicated other locations in Staten Island will be targeted soon. Officials said evidence of the West Nile virus was also found in two dead crows in Staten Island, one each in Fort Wadsworth and Mariners Harbor; one dead crow and one live northern mockingbird in the Dyker Beach and Bushwick sections of Brooklyn; and two dead crows in Central Park.
"These findings confirm that the West Nile virus has now appeared in all five boroughs and that all New Yorkers, regardless of where they reside, should take appropriate precautions against mosquitoes," Cohen said.
Cohen revealed that two human cases were detected in Florida earlier this year. The Staten Island case was detected by the Departments laboratory-based surveillance program.
Unlike the incident at ground-zero in College Point two years ago, City officials have abandoned malathion for a milder product known as Anvil.
The use of malathion precipitated a raging debate in Queens, as environmental activists charged the substance produced severe side effects and put the elderly and those who were immuno-compromised at risk. The Mayors choice of the pesticide spurred dozens of community leaders in Queens and countless calls from consumers to their elected officials. The politicians then called upon government regulatory agencies such as the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Environmental Protection Agency and the Occupational Safety aand Health Organization (OSHA) to look into charges that malathion could sicken residents exposed to widespread spraying.
The controversy widened when Congressman Gary Ackerman of Bayside, alarmed by constituents complaints, called a public hearing at the Flushing Library. He accused an OSHA scientist of refusing to state whether or not malathion, was carcinogenic. The OSHA representative also refused to respond to complaints that his agency persuaded the CDC to pull a critical article on malathion pesticide from the agencys scientific journal.
The controversy took another turn when an EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) scientific advisory panel began a long study on the pesticide to determine whether Giuliani had bombarded the Citys nine million inhabitants with a carcinogenic pesticide. A CDC scientist, Dr. Brian Dementi, told The Queens Courier that malathion was carcinogenic and his colleagues on the panel were being influenced by pesticide industry officials.
Investigative reporting by The Courier revealed that malathion has a 50-year history as a pesticide in the U.S. and was used in rural areas of California and Florida when the Medfly threatened crops. It also turned up the fact that legendary environmentalist Rachel Carson in her landmark work, "Silent Spring," had identified malathion as a health hazard.
The debate over the use of the drug intensified and forced City officials to switch from malathion to the milder pesticide, Anvil. That product is being used today in a new wave of sprayings ordered by City Hall in Staten Island
Preventive measures are the main thrust of the current Health Department strategy. Commissioner Cohen advised all New Yorkers, especially those aged 65 and older, to take precautions against mosquitoes.
"If outside between dusk and dawn, when mosquitoes are most active, New Yorkers should consider using a repellent that contains DEET and wear protective clothing such as long pants, long-sleeved shirts and socks," he said. "Additionally they should make sure that doors and windows have tight fitting screens, and repair or replace screens that have tears or holes."