- - Thursday, August 4, 2016

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

Life is not fair. It carries risks, rarely equally, and no one gets out alive. Every person must figure out is how to balance activity with safety and find an acceptable level of risk. But with the Zika virus it’s the federal government that decides how much risk Americans should take, and the government answer seems to be, more than they should have to. DDT, the insecticide that inspired the formation of the environmentalist movement, has been used effectively in the past to combat mosquito-borne Zika. It could do so again. Indeed, DDT has saved millions from death by malaria.

The threat from Zika is receding in Brazil, where the virus is suspected of having caused more than 3,500 birth defects in less than a year, just in time for the opening Friday of the Olympic Games in Rio. But summer heat in the United States is spreading the danger here. The Florida Department of Health reports 10 cases of virus infection in one Miami neighborhood, bringing to 14 the number of cases in which Floridians contracted the virus locally. That prompted the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Monday to advise pregnant women to avoid travel to the area. Another 1,600 persons from across the country have picked up the virus while traveling and have brought it home.

Space and time seem out of joint. The United States is not an undeveloped nation of the early-20th century bedeviled by disease, yet a Third World-type health threat is making a mockery of modernity. Why? Because the most effective eradicator of disease-carrying pest, DDT, has been banned since 1972, owing to its concentrating in the food chain when it is sprayed without proper discrimination.

Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, notes that Brazil used DDT to knock out Zika during the 1950s and ‘60s. “They did it successfully but they did it in a way that would be almost nonfeasible today — very heavy use of DDT,” he tells CNS News. “So it can be done. But historically it was done in a way that might not be acceptable now.”

The public might find it unacceptable for health officials to bypass effective methods of saving infants from enormous defects in favor of using inefficient but politically acceptable methods. American health authorities have been using acceptable chemicals that kill larval mosquitoes and adult mosquitoes. “It isn’t working as well as we had hoped,” concedes Tom Frieden, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “That could be because some of the mosquitoes are resistant to those insecticides.”

Dr. Fauci and Dr. Frieden haven’t suggested that DDT should be deployed to halt the outbreak of Zika, but maybe they should, and use it the right way. Health professionals know best how to halt infectious disease, but science is frequently a mere handmaiden to politics. Powerful environmental extremists say the birds, bees and other bugs are as valuable as human being, but if they think that they may be hanging out with the wrong humans. The ultimate natural resource is man and they’re all worth protecting.

A solution to the scourge of Zika is urgently needed and no remedy, not even DDT, should be beyond careful consideration. More than 40 years after it was banned in the United States DDT is now sprayed on a limited basis to save Africans from malaria. All lives matter, and here at home, too.

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