STATEMENT FROM AUDUBON'S DR. FRANK GILL ON WEST NILE VIRUS
Audubon Chief of Science Calls on States to Employ Integrated Pest Management
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.