Year 4, Month 8, Day 7: It’s Not A Bug, It’s A Feature!

Gee, whocoodaknowed? WaPo:

West Nile virus outbreaks are likely to flare up in the coming years, spurred on by warmer, longer mosquito seasons coupled with cuts in disease-control funding that leave authorities unprepared, according to two new studies.

After an all-time high in 2003 with nearly 10,000 cases and 264 dead, the virus backed off gradually for the remainder of the decade — until last year. In 2012, there were 5,674 cases and 286 deaths, almost twice the 2003 mortality rate.

This strong resurgence is suggestive of “unpredictable local and regional outbreaks” to come, according to a study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Even when the number of infections dies down, the virus remains in circulation with an ever-present danger of periodic recurrences.

“Every once in a while, you will have the right conditions to have it build up in the mosquito and bird populations, and spill over to humans,” said Stephen M. Ostroff, formerly of the CDC, who wrote an editorial in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) that accompanied the studies.

Leaving aside the brain-eating viruses already occupying the House, of course…July 19:

The disease’s very name suggests a far-off locale well out of the awareness of most Americans. The likely increase in cases of West Nile virus is yet another complex epiphenomenon of global climate change: the relocation of disease vectors into areas previously inhospitable.

As climate change intensifies, America’s doctors are going to get a lot more experience treating tropical and exotic diseases, and if Congressional Republicans weren’t utterly fixated on denying the most basic realities of science, they would recognize that the insects carrying the sometimes deadly virus are “illegal immigrants” with the potential to damage our economy far more than the larger, human, kind. Mosquito surveillance is homeland security of a concrete and well-founded sort, unlike the reflexive xenophobia which characterizes the GOP’s approach to anything they don’t understand (“volcano monitoring,” anyone?).

It’s long past time for those obstructing our mechanisms of government to get out of the way.

Warren Senders

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