September 22, 2002

What if?

by Chris Feeney

What if we lived in California? That's nearly an insult to some folks in these parts, as the western state is known to be the capital of Hollywood, computers, yuppies and every other stereotype that just isn't Missouri. (My sister-in-law is the only good thing I know to have come out of the state) But the one redeeming value for the Golden State is that California does not have is bugs, and with the recent outbreak of the West Nile Virus, most Missourians would rest a little easier if they didn't have to worry about those pesky mosquitoes.

It used to be all we had to worry about were chiggars and that nasty rash around your waste band and the elastic in your socks. Then along came ticks and that pesky lyme disease. Now we have this flying biological warfare (wonder if that pest Bin Laden has started recruiting mosquitoes?).

I'm sure the sale of flyswatters, OFF, and bat houses all have skyrocketed since the news of the first fatality from the disease was reported in Missouri last week. One person from the states more than 5.6 million population has fallen victim to this malady, yet you would think that there has been sightings of thousands of drones of African killer bees as area homeowners have started building backyard netting to rival World War II air raid barricades. We went to supper with an older member of our family the other evening and I couldn't understand a word she was saying through the beekeeper's outfit she had on. It didn't bother her any as she pointed out that we youngsters could tease her all we wanted since the West Nile Disease typically is only fatal in elderly victims.

There are some pretty smart marketers out there. I got an email yesterday from some company that was trying to sell me a propane powered mosquito trap that looked like a cross between a crematorium and a roach motel.

But they're not the only ones taking this thing seriously. The cool weather has dampened the issue but I felt a little sorry for the kids when mom dumped out their little kiddie pool for the summer. Sure it had more green stuff growing in it than most ponds, but that's why the toddlers liked it so much.

But all joking aside, this disease is scary for all of us considering, unlike good highways, high paying jobs or Publisher Clearing House winners, mosquitoes are one thing this part of the country has plenty of. Sure experts tell us that only one in every 100 mosquitoes carries the disease. But there have been times when I have been in the tree stand during the first week of bow season that I guarantee I've been bitten at least 1,000 times. But the odds are even more difficult as only one percent of persons bitten by a virus-carrying bug will actually develop the life threatening symptoms. If you do the math that means the odds are pretty low to die from the disease.

Still when you go from July to August and see the number of cases dramatically increase expanding from five states to 11 (now including Missouri) plus the District of Columbia, it's easy to become worried. While there are only 251 reported human cases of the disease with 11 confirmed fatalities, it still is getting scary. If those numbers go up at the same pace next week I may be calling grandma to borrow her beekeeper suit for the upcoming fishing trip.

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