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A Run on Bug Spray Amid Fears of West Nile Virus

In Uncategorized, West Nile Virus on August 26, 2012 at 9:25 am
DALLAS JOURNAL

One bottle of mosquito repellent was all that remained at a Dougherty’s Pharmacy in Dallas.

By 

Published: August 24, 2012

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/08/25/us/in-dallas-precautions-amid-fears-of-west-nile-virus.html?pagewanted=all

DALLAS — If there was an aroma that defined life in this city, maybe it was the scent of chicken-fried bacon and other exotic deep-fried specialties at the annual State Fair of Texas. Maybe the city smelled like football, or steakhouses, or money, or some combination thereof.

Mark Graham for The New York Times

Katharyn DeVille, who was hospitalized after being bitten by a mosquito, said, “I have migraines, and this was worse.”

But these days, there is something new in the air, and it is everywhere: the sweetly pungent odor of spray-on mosquito repellent.

As the city and its nearby suburbs cope with a deadly outbreak of West Nile virus, the bug-spray shelves of convenience stores and pharmacies are emptying out. In the upscale neighborhood of Preston Hollow, a section of Aisle 3A at Dougherty’s Pharmacy was nearly bare: 87 out of a stock of 88 bottles of OFF! had sold.

“OFF! is the new Chanel No. 5 around here,” said Carol Reed, a longtime political consultant whom D Magazine once dubbed the No. 1 Dallas insider. “I now put on insect repellent the same way I do sunblock. But we are Texans, so we fight something every summer.”

State health officials confirmed that since June 1, 640 people have been infected with West Nile, 23 of whom have died. Dallas County is the epicenter of the mosquito-borne illness that has spread across Texas and other parts of the country. Ten people have died in Dallas County and more than 200 others have been sickened, the highest number of West Nile-related deaths and infections of any county in the United States.

In addition, state officials are investigating but have not yet confirmed three other possible West Nile-related deaths, including one in Dallas County.

In response, the mayor of Dallas has declared a state of emergency, low-flying planes have waged an aerial pesticide assault and slow-moving trucks have sprayed on the ground.

One day last week, the Texas Poison Center Network experienced a spike in calls statewide, receiving the most calls in a single day since a 2007 peanut butter recall. Out of 1,491 calls, 716 were from people concerned about West Nile virus and the pesticide spraying.

“We have had calls from people saying, ‘O.K., I have a bunch of mosquito bites and I’m nauseous, what does this mean?’ “ said Melody Gardner, director of the North Texas Poison Center at Parkland Memorial Hospital in Dallas, which handled most of the 716 calls.

At another hospital, Methodist Dallas Medical Center, there have been a couple of cases of people who were bitten by mosquitoes rushing to the emergency room and bringing the suspected culprits with them, in the hopes of getting the insects tested for West Nile, a hospital spokeswoman said.

And yet, despite the fatalities and the nearly $3 million countywide spraying operation, the outbreak has not caused widespread panic. Many of those who have died were elderly men and women who had underlying conditions, a fact that many residents recite as the reason for only mild alarm.

People still sit outdoors at cafes and restaurants in shorts and T-shirts, and joggers still huff down the sidewalks before dusk, fearing neither mosquito nor chemical agent. Two days after declaring a state of emergency, Mayor Michael S. Rawlings was in downtown Dallas to see the musical “Chicago.”

Amid the sunshine on Thursday afternoon, many of those running and walking along the popular Katy Trail here were doing so without the aid of bug spray.

“I could care less,” said Josh Tucker, 36, a financial analyst for a real estate company who was deep into a three-mile-plus jog. “For the most part, I think it’s overblown.”

The Dallas-Fort Worth area is a sprawling 12-county region that is home to more than six million people and is known by its labyrinth-sounding nickname, the Metroplex. If any good has come of the outbreak, then perhaps it has succeeded in shrinking the Metroplex to a more small-town scale, uniting residents of different cities and incomes the way blizzards and blackouts often unite New Yorkers.

In Dallas, many people know someone who has gotten ill or has died, and many more know someone who knows someone.

“I was getting my hair cut last week,” said Roy W. Bailey, the chief executive of a private equity firm who lives in Preston Hollow. “My barber has two customers who have died. That really just slaps you in the face. This is real. This is not something that people are just blowing off.”

Jacqueline DeVille, 8, knows someone affected by the virus, too: her mother, Katharyn DeVille, who spent eight days in a hospital after getting bitten by a mosquito in the family’s backyard in the suburb of DeSoto. Mrs. DeVille, 42, was not sure what she was doing the moment she was bitten.

“I was just doing regular stuff, swimming and probably cooking out,” Mrs. DeVille said. ”There were some days when we would all notice that we would start slapping ourselves, because something was biting.”

It all started July 30, when Mrs. DeVille felt as if she had the flu. Then her fever climbed and she got the chills. She went to a clinic, which sent her to a hospital emergency room in Dallas. The doctor there told her not to worry, and blood tests came up negative, she said.

But nobody knew what was wrong with her, and by that time she had broken out in a rash. By Aug. 8, she kept getting worse, and a severe headache crept up. “It was like an ax in my head,” she said. “I was miserable. I have migraines, and this was worse.”

The next day, Mrs. DeVille went to the emergency room at Methodist Dallas Medical Center, where she was admitted and told she had West Nile and other complications.

“Oddly, I was kind of relieved,” she said, tears welling up in her eyes. “A, it had a name. And B, I knew I wasn’t contagious to any of my family members, and that was really important to me.”

Mrs. DeVille had lost, in a sense, a month of her life, celebrating her birthday in bed, missing her daughter’s first day of school. She does not venture much into her backyard since being released last Friday, and worries that too many people have an ‘It wouldn’t happen to me’ attitude.

“I think that if we’re all cavalier like that, when people around us are getting sick, if you don’t at least get a can of OFF! and keep it handy, just give yourself that chance not to get sick,” she said. “Because, believe me, you don’t want this.”

On Thursday evening, Mrs. DeVille relaxed at home on the sofa, her daughter by her side. Her phone was in arm’s reach, as was a bottle of mosquito repellent.

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NYT: West Nile Hits Hard Around Dallas, With Fear of Its Spread

In West Nile Virus on August 18, 2012 at 12:45 pm

By  and 

DALLAS — An outbreak of West Nile virus has engulfed Dallas County, with nearly 200 cases of human infection and 10 deaths, leading the mayor of Dallas to declare a state of emergency and to authorize the first aerial spraying of a pesticide in the city since 1966.

The high number of infections and deaths from the mosquito-borne disease marks the nation’s worst outbreak of West Nile in a year that has already logged a record number of cases across the country. The virus has become endemic in the United States since the first outbreak in 1999.

An official with the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said the Dallas-area outbreak was probably a harbinger of a larger spread of the virus into other parts of the country. In Cook County, Ill., which includes Chicago, human cases of infection rose steadily this week, from 5 on Monday to 8 on Wednesday to 10 on Thursday, though no deaths had been reported, the authorities said.

Texas officials say the statewide death toll so far is 17, the most West Nile-related fatalities of any state.

In a report, the C.D.C. said that as of Tuesday, 693 cases of infection had been reported nationwide. Louisiana had six deaths, according to the report, and no other state had more than one.

“With this huge outbreak in Texas, the jury is still out on what’s going to happen with the rest of the country,” said the official, Dr. Lyle R. Petersen, director of the C.D.C.’s Division of Vector-borne Infectious Diseases. “But in Chicago, we’ve already observed high numbers of West Nile virus-infected mosquitoes. This is looking like a large regional event. We don’t know if the number of cases is going to drastically increase, but we do expect more cases.”

And yet, as local and state officials have stepped up their efforts to fight West Nile in the Dallas area, there has been a kind of backlash, with many residents growing more concerned about the aerial spraying than the virus itself.

More than 1,700 people signed an online petition on Change.org calling on Dallas officials to stop the spraying, describing it as ineffective, unsafe and harmful to insects like honeybees and ladybugs. A number of other cities in Texas and around the country do aerial spraying to reduce their mosquito populations — including New York, which recently sprayed over uninhabited wetlands on Staten Island — but this is the first time Dallas is doing so in more than 45 years.

Though officials in Dallas describe the procedure as safe and effective, they have added to some residents’ worries by advising those concerned about exposure to avoid being outside, close their windows and keep their pets inside while spraying occurs. “I think residents need to take the precautions that they’re comfortable with,” said Frank Librio, a city spokesman.

The aerial spraying was to begin Thursday at 10 p.m. in a 106,000-acre section of the city and county, including the wealthy areas of University Park and Highland Park. Twin-engine planes flying about 300 feet above the ground will spread a pesticide called Duet to kill the adult mosquito population.

Duet has been approved by the federal Environmental Protection Agency for ground and aerial use in outdoor residential and recreational areas, and it is similar to the pesticide the city has been using as part of a truck-mounted spraying operation it began in June. The last time Dallas conducted aerial spraying was in the summer of 1966, to combat an outbreak of St. Louis encephalitis, a mosquito-borne infection. That outbreak killed 14 people in the county.

The spraying operation this time is being led — and paid for — by the state. More than half of the human cases of infection in the United States this year are in Texas, which has confirmed more than 400 cases statewide.

More planes are scheduled to spray Friday night and possibly over the weekend. “The disease poses an immediate public health threat to Dallas County,” Dr. David Lakey, the commissioner of the Texas Department of State Health Services, said in a statement. “We need to use all possible tools, including aerial spraying, to fight this outbreak.”

Five of the 10 deaths in the county occurred in Dallas, the third-largest city in Texas, with a population of 1.2 million. Mayor Michael S. Rawlings declared the state of emergency on Wednesday, one week after officials issued a similar declaration for Dallas County. Dallas officials have asked the state to spray the entire city.

Dr. Petersen with the C.D.C. said it was difficult to say why the Dallas area has had such a severe outbreak, but he said that the early spring and the hot summer were likely culprits, because heat affects factors like mosquito abundance. Hot weather both increases the mosquito population and causes more of the virus to build up in their salivary glands.

“That summer in New York City when it was discovered in this country — 1999 — was a very hot summer,” Dr. Petersen said. “In 2002, 2003, when it was all over the U.S., it was abnormally hot. We had an early spring and abnormally hot weather this year, so that could be a factor.”

A spokeswoman for the New York City health department, Alexandra Waldhorn, said the city had only 3 cases so far, with only 11 in all of last season.

At 10:16 p.m. in University Park, a low-flying plane with two misty trails streaming behind it flew over James Smith, 41, who stood with his girlfriend on a shop-lined street near Southern Methodist University. He had no reservations about being outside.

“I think whatever the risk may be, if there’s any, it’s outweighed by the risk of the mosquitoes that are infecting people,” he said. “There’s a lot of things out there that can kill you. I don’t think this is one of them.”

Manny Fernandez reported from Dallas, and Donald G. McNeil Jr. from New York.

This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:

Correction: August 17, 2012

An earlier version of this story referred imprecisely to mosquito-control efforts on Staten Island. The city sprayed in some uninhabited wetlands, not in residential areas

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/08/17/us/west-nile-virus-hits-hard-in-dallas-area-and-is-seen-spreading.html?_r=1&pagewanted=print

West Nile Outbreak Grows, nearly 700 cases reported

In Uncategorized, West Nile Virus on August 18, 2012 at 12:41 pm
Posted: Aug 15, 2012 4:40 PM EDT
Updated: Aug 18, 2012 7:00 AM EDT
 
(NBC) – West Nile virus is spreading faster than it has in previous summers.

The number of cases now nears 700, with nearly 30 deaths reported.

Jordan Connor, 14, of Texas is home from the hospital, recovering from a severe West Nile infection that led to encephalitis – inflammation of the brain.

She’s young and strong enough to recover.

Others, especially elderly patients, have not been as lucky.

Betty West’s husband of 65 years was the first one in North Carolina to die of the mosquito-borne disease this season.

“He had gotten so weak, we could barely get him out of the house,” she said.

Climate experts say the mild winter and rainy spring became the perfect breeding ground for mosquitoes, who get the virus from birds.

Although mosquitoes thrive on standing water, the drought has added to the problem.

“With fewer water sources, mosquitoes and birds find themselves closer together,” said Vanderbilt University’s Dr. William Schaffner.

So it’s been easier for mosquitoes to get infected, then transmit the virus to people.

Experts recommend using insect repellent outdoors, draining areas of standing water, and wearing long sleeves and pants when outside at dawn and dusk, when mosquitoes are most active.

Most West Nile victims have no symptoms and recover quickly.

http://www.kplctv.com/story/19287485/west-nile-outbreak-grows-30-deaths-reported

Tick bites can make you deathly allergic to meat

In Lyme Disease, Uncategorized on August 13, 2012 at 8:15 pm

http://grist.org/list/tick-bites-can-make-you-deathly-allergic-to-meat/

 

By Sarah Laskow

Photo by The Adventures of Kristin & Adam.

If there weren’t enough reasons to be totally terrified and grossed out by ticks (they drop on your head from the trees, they suck your blood, they burrow into your skin, they transmit a terrible disease you’ll never be fully rid of), the bite of a lone star tick can trigger allergies that mean eating a hamburger can lead to anaphylactic shock.

Helen Chappell writes in Discover Magazine about her experience with this relatively unknown danger, and her account is pretty dire:

Tick saliva is “a really good provocateur of an immune response, even outside of an infection,” Commins told me, though they are not yet sure whether it’s bacteria carried in tick saliva or the saliva itself that is responsible. But they believe that something in some ticks’ saliva stimulates the human immune system to produce antibodies to a sugar present in mammalian meat, though not poultry and fish, called galactose-alpha-1,3-galactose (alpha-gal for short). The next time an unsuspecting meat lover chows down on a hamburger, those antibodies could rally a systemic allergic reaction.

Except not right away. Maybe not until hours later.

You can have a steak for dinner and not know anything’s amiss until the middle of the night. Add to that the fact that different kinds of meats — or even different cuts of the same kind of meat — can cause more or less severe reactions, and you’ve got a recipe for confusion.

Now, normally, we’ll all in favor of people eating less meat, but no one should have to undergo a near-death experience to get to that place. Ugh, ticks!

 

Source

 

Sarah Laskow is a reporter based in New York City who covers environment, energy, and sustainability issues, among other things. Follow her on Twitter.

 

 

‘Robo-mosquitoes’ in Margaritaville?

In Dengue Fever, Lyme Disease, Uncategorized on August 13, 2012 at 8:43 am

BY DAVID REJESKI AND ELEONORE PAUWELS

Most Europeans see the United States as the land that embraces genetic engineering. So imagine the surprise when a British firm — Oxitec — ran into the buzz saw of public opinion trying to introduce a genetically modified (GM) mosquito in Key West to eradicate the dreaded Dengue virus.

Within a few weeks of a public meeting to discuss the mosquito release, a petition against the initiative had more than 100,000 signatories. [The entire population of Monroe County, which encompasses The Keys, is only about 75,000.] Key West inhabitants have branded Oxitec mosquitoes with names like “Robo-Frankenstein mosquitoes,” “mutant mosquitoes,” and “Super bugs,” using rhetoric lifted from movies like Jurassic Park and The Hunger Games.

Are people overreacting? Maybe. But a closer read of many of the comments posted on the petition website provide a deeper insight into the resistance and some key lessons for future technologies dependent on genetic engineering.

•  Trust. Whether the public trusts new technologies often depends on whether the public trusts their developers or those responsible for ensuring public safety. The comments contain numerous references not just to Oxitec, but to agriculture giant Monsanto, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and British Petroleum: “I am fed up with Monsanto and other biotech companies,” said one.

Given the complexity of most emerging technologies, many people will fall back on this simple trust test, and most corporations, and increasingly, government organizations, will lose.

•  Nature. Many people saw the GM mosquitoes as a violation of nature’s order, commenting, “Why do all these big companies all seem to think that they know what’s better than Mother Nature?” “You can’t mess with Mother Nature and not have something bad happen; they don’t know what they’re doing!”

Commenters pointed to a number of examples, including invasive species common in Florida, such as the melaleuca plant (originally introduced to dry out swampy land) and giant pythons, and other unwelcome visitors like Africanized honeybees, the Mediterranean fruit fly (a scourge in California) and Asian beetles and carp. People emphasized that a true “test release” is impossible. “Once living organisms are released into the environment they cannot be recalled, nor do we know what results and impacts may occur,” one commenter said.

•  Permission. Decades of research on risk perceptions have shown that people differentiate between “voluntary” risks, which we willfully undertake, and “non-voluntary” risks, which are imposed upon us. People will smoke themselves to death while fighting against a nearby factory emitting pollutants.

In this case, Key West inhabitants clearly saw the government and the company imposing their will on the population. “We were never asked if we wanted GMOs released into our environment . . . there is very little democracy left if we have no voice,” one commenter said. Another asked, “Who wants to be a human Guinea pig?” Another added, “We are not lab rats!”

Interestingly, the other side of the risk equation, Dengue fever, was never mentioned. This may be because the actual number of cases in Florida totaled seven in 2011 and 58 in 2010, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In the tropics and subtropics, as many as 100 million people are infected yearly, but for many people in Florida, Dengue fever is an abstraction; Oxitec and their mosquitoes pose the risk.

Clearly, there was a significant lack of information about impacts and uncertainties in the Key West case. Some people asked: “Where is the unbiased, third-party, peer-reviewed research on effectiveness and safety of GM mosquitoes?” But given the biases, trust deficit, and dynamics of the situation, it is doubtful whether more information would have reduced public opposition.

As scientists work on more dramatic modifications of organisms in areas like synthetic biology, the Key West case should serve as a lesson, as should the growing public opposition to GM foods in states like California, Michigan, Oregon, Washington and Vermont.

Getting the science right won’t help if we get the public engagement wrong.

David Rejeski is the director of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholar’s Science & Technology Innovation Program. Eleonore Pauwels is a research scholar with the program.

http://www.miamiherald.com/2012/08/13/2945313/robo-mosquitoes-in-margaritaville.html

Climate Change will Lead to Dengue Fever outbreaks in Chicago, elsewhere

In Uncategorized on August 3, 2012 at 1:14 pm

“Of the three cities studied, Dengue Fever outbreaks in Chicago during the summer season could be larger than outbreaks in Atlanta and Lubbock, Texas during the spring and fall.” “This approach allows us to better understand how climate change will affect the mosquito species and diseases transmitted by it,” he said. “Surprisingly, we found that dengue would shift, rather than increase the risk for dengue outbreaks within the southern United States. This occurred because projected climate conditions in the South became too warm and decreased the life expectancy of the Asian tiger mosquito. The shortened life span prevented the mosquito from incubating dengue before it died.

http://bit.ly/QLKVNX

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