Bite me. You might as well go outside and shout it loud, because there isn’t enough DEET in your medicine chest to fend off the bloodlust of Culex pipiens, Anopheles, Aedes vexans, and dozens of other species of infected mosquitoes blanketing the United States. And West Nile virus season has just begun—consider August 2012 a preview.
Don’t get me wrong. Health organizations, federal, state and local, have spent buckets of money on nice-looking, easy-to-understand websites that calmly advise citizens to douse ourselves with bug spray, wear light, long-sleeved clothing (think Out of Africa), eliminate standing pools of water, and, of course, just stay inside the damn house until the Center for Disease Control (CDC) sounds the all-clear.
All good. But hardly sufficient.
West Nile virus—how it got here, how it travels, how it kills, and how health officials could, but often fail to mount the most effective responses—is a complicated story, a cautionary tale, some would say, about power, ego, bureaucracy, preparedness, ignorance, incompetence, and disparate champions whose voices routinely go unheard and whose counsel is too often ignored.
Right now, the highbeams are on Dallas, Texas, ‘Ground Zero’ for West Nile—and Mayor Mike Rawlings has indeed declared a state of emergency in the municipality. As the number of victims escalates, however, so does the anxiety of state and local officials, as well as the complaints of constituents, who’ve begun to question and criticize the city’s response to the health crisis….