[audubon-news] West Nile Virus Statement from Audubon's Dr. Frank Gill

  • From: "BIANCHI, John" <JBIANCHI@xxxxxxxxxxx>
  • To:
  • Date: Wed, 28 Aug 2002 12:01:21 -0400

Contact: John Bianchi


Audubon Chief of Science Calls on States to Employ Integrated Pest

Ivyland, PA, August 28, 2002 - Today, Audubon Senior Vice President of
Science Dr. Frank Gill called on health and pest control authorities in
affected states to employ an integrated approach to the management of
mosquitoes carrying the West Nile Virus.

"West Nile Virus is a disease that, unfortunately, has come to stay in the
Western Hemisphere," he stated.  "It affects people, horses, bats and other
small mammals, and our native birds.  While more than 99 percent of West
Nile cases turn out to be completely harmless, the risk of West Nile
nationwide has caused communities to take prudent measures against the
mosquitoes that carry the disease.  Our experience with West Nile in the
Northeast shows that an integrated approach to pest management is the most
effective and safest method available.  Audubon advises states to enact
measures that will quickly effect this change.  It will greatly help people,
other mammals, and the birds which are the disease's primary victims."

Integrated pest management calls for elimination of mosquito breeding
habitat, the use of environmentally sound tools to combat the insects, and a
more targeted approach to the use of pesticides.  "Communities can greatly
enhance their ability to eliminate the threat of disease-carrying mosquitoes
by replacing chemical larvacides with bacteria-based products, which kill
mosquitoes, but not beneficial insects, such as dragonflies; amphibians; and
fish that prey upon mosquitoes," Gill continued.  "By eliminating pools of
stagnant water in parks and at dumps, and by allowing some drainage of
dammed areas, communities also decrease the available breeding ponds for
mosquitoes.  Homeowners can help; cleaning out gutters and removing tarps,
tires, and other objects where water can collect also prevents mosquitoes
from reproducing."

"To minimize collateral damage to people and wildlife, National Audubon
calls on public health officials to follow the New York State Health
Department's West Nile Response Plan, which calls for a measured reaction to
the presence of the virus," Gill said.  "Aerial spraying of pesticides has
been shown to be less effective than targeted, localized spraying.  If
pesticides are to be employed, a focused, limited, and timely response works
best.  Combining this approach with the use of highly effective bacterial
larvacides and community and home cleanup of standing water is the most
effective and efficient use of our states' energies and limited resources."

Gill also notes the effect of West Nile falls primarily on our nation's
birdlife.  "America's birds - especially crows and jays, and increasingly,
it seems, our beloved hawks and owls - are the most common fatal victims of
the disease," he stated.  "This integrated approach to controlling
mosquitoes will not only help people, but will also help our beleaguered
birds to be more resistant to West Nile." 

Finally, Dr. Gill called on immuno-compromised people, especially the
elderly, to take reasonable precautions against mosquito bites.  "By using
insect repellent, wearing long pants and socks, and by staying indoors
during dusk and nighttime, older Americans and those with serious illnesses
can greatly decrease their chances of contracting West Nile."

Audubon is dedicated to protecting birds and other wildlife and the habitat
that supports them.  Our growing network of community-based Audubon Centers,
grass roots science programs for bird enthusiasts, and advocacy on behalf of
ecosystems sustaining important bird populations, engage millions of people
of all ages and backgrounds in positive conservation experiences.

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