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Dallas launches chemical warfare on mosquitoes amid historic West Nile outbreak

Source: Raw Story

A mosquito, up close. Photo: Shutterstock.com, all rights reserved.

By Stephen C. Webster
Friday, August 17, 2012 15:43 EDT

Amid one of the worst outbreaks of West Nile virus ever seen in the U.S., officials in the Dallas area of north Texas have declared war, launching all-out chemical warfare on mosquitoes.

Airplanes took off from Executive Airport on Thursday night, flying at about 300 feet and covering numerous communities with pesticide — for the first time since 1966. They were called back after several hours due to an incoming storm, but at a press conference on Friday officials said they planned to resume spraying again at dusk, weather permitting.

The Centers for Disease Control said that of the nearly 700 cases of West Nile virus infection recorded across the U.S. in 2012, over half have occurred in Texas. So far, 17 have died in the Dallas area alone.

 

CBS Dallas said that officials plan to coat nearly all of Dallas and several nearby cities in pesticide to break an alarmingly rapid spread of West Nile. Additional cities are in discussions to join the effort as soon as permits can be issued. The air space around former President George W. Bush’s home, however, was excluded from spraying.

The outbreak is particularly bad thanks in part due to the extra rain Texas received this year after a long 2011 summer of extreme drought. The extra rain left standing water on drought-hardened ground to pool and stagnate instead of being flushed out by fresh rains throughout the spring, creating a perfect breeding ground for mosquitoes. The ensuing hot, dry weather this summer — recently ranked the hottest summer in recorded history — has sped up the breeding cycle and helped newly hatched West Nile-bearing mosquito varieties thrive.

Scientists at the World Health Organization (PDF) believe that climate change — which triggers greater weather extremes including hotter summers, milder winters, longer droughts and harder rains — is a prime mover in helping mosquito-borne illnesses thrive.

Texas Governor Rick Perry (R), however, says he believes that climate change is imaginary and that the vast scientific consensus on the phenomenon is based upon manipulated data. The state’s Commission on Environmental Quality was also recently caughtcensoring mentions of climate change in an annual scientific report on the health of a key coastal ecosystem.

Symptoms of West Nile include fever, muscle weakness, headache, rashes on the torso, nausea and vomiting. Few West Nile infections end up resulting in death, but if it morphs into West Nile encephalitis, victims can become comatose or experience disorientation, stiffness, tremors, vision loss and paralysis.

This video is from CBS DFW, broadcast Thursday, August 16, 2012.

 

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Pentagon Provides Funding for Biodefense Antibiotics

Source

The U.S. Defense Threat Reduction Agency is set to fund the preparation of antibiotics against anthrax, plague and tularemia under a five-year deal worth as much as $13.8 million, the University of Illinois at Chicago announced last week (see GSN, Nov. 11, 2010).

The university’s Center for Pharmaceutical Biotechnology would carry out the studies for treating exposure to the agents, which are all classified as Category A biological threats.

The work would focus on overcoming resistance by the biological threats to antibiotic treatment.

“New antibiotics targeting resistance are strongly needed,” Michael Johnson, the top scientist involved in the deal, said in a statement. “However, the pharmaceutical industry has largely abandoned antibiotic research. There are few antibiotics in the development pipeline, and most of those in development target currently established mechanisms of action, potentially making them immediately susceptible to drug resistance.”

Antibiotics typically attack the “active site” of an enzyme associated with a disease agent, a press release states. Treatments aimed at a number of areas might be more effective, according to recent research (University of Illinois at Chicago release, April 28).

 

Project Shad

Project SHAD stands for Project Shipboard Hazard and Defense, a series of Cold War-era tests by the United States Department of Defense of biological weapons and chemical weapons. Exposures of uninformed and unwilling humans during the testing to the test substances, particularly the exposure to United States military personnel then in service, has added controversy to recent revelations of the project. Project SHAD was part of a larger effort by the Department of Defense called Project 112