The California West Nile Virus Grassroots Mobilization is an effort among RISE, its California members, state alliance groups and other interested stakeholders who want to protect public health and minimize the threat of West Nile virus through the safe and responsible use of mosquito control products.

This group will promote integrated mosquito management techniques which include the use of larvicides, adulticides and repellants and will defend against efforts to ban or restrict the use of these mosquito control products. The CA-WNV Grassroots Mobilization effort will help overcome the challenges of keeping informed about local issues, identifying people and resources to deliver a proactive message and stopping pesticide bans on the local level.

It is predicted that California will see increased cases of West Nile virus during mosquito season in 2004. State and local health officials have warned of WNV activity and illness in southern California this year because the virus has now had time to establish itself in local mosquitoes, which infect birds that then serve as a source of the virus to other mosquitoes, leading to infection of humans and animals. Infected birds are expected to introduce WNV to central and northern California this summer or fall.

Mosquito and vector control agencies have sponsored educational programs and activities to help Californians avoid mosquito bites and control mosquito populations to lessen the risk of WNV. Unfortunately, the state government in Sacramento is also considering diverting $1.3 billion in local revenues to help close the state budget deficit. Such a proposal would take millions of dollars out of mosquito control efforts at this critical time for Californians.

According to health officials, experience elsewhere in the United States shows that once the virus has established itself in an area, increased illnesses follow. In 2003, WNV was confirmed in three individuals from Imperial, Los Angeles and Riverside counties. In addition, the virus was identified in dead birds, mosquitoes, sentinel chickens and a horse from six southern California counties. In the United States, almost 10,000 human cases of West Nile infection were reported, including 264 deaths. Since it was first detected in the United States in New York in 1999, WNV has been found in 46 states and the District of Columbia.

News reports about West Nile virus in California have focused on prevention with little mention of pesticide use other than larviciding. However, if human cases of West Nile virus begin to develop and spraying of mosquito adulticides is considered or begins, we expect anti-pesticide activists in the state to actively oppose the use of these products.

In July 2003, the City of Lyndhurst, Ohio, a suburb of Cleveland, passed an ordinance prohibiting the spraying of mosquito adulticides. The city's action followed a community forum, organized by Beyond Pesticides, in which a panel of so-called experts on mosquito management and health effects of pesticides discussed the hazards and the lack of efficacy associated with the spraying.

No one opposing this restriction attended that meeting. Misinformation and anti-pesticide activist propaganda led to the passing of this ordinance banning the city's use of mosquito adulticides. Our industry representatives as concerned citizens must show up and speak out at these meetings to oppose these bans.

This plan is an effort to prevent additional restrictions and local regulations of pesticides used to control mosquitoes that carry West Nile virus. It is important to have local mobilization teams in place to monitor and then address any potential bans that may arise. These teams need to have the proper tools (talking points, draft testimony, etc) in place in order to attend public meetings and publicly rebut the anti-pesticide activists claims.

When it comes to West Nile virus, all IPM tools must be utilized to protect public health, including the physical reduction of mosquito breeding grounds, an effective larviciding program, and the proper application of adulticides by well-trained personnel and the use of repellants by the public. Collectively, these measures represent the only proven and responsible way to protect public health from the threat of mosquito-borne diseases.