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Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Columns

Prevention plan lacks awareness


There is no cure and no vaccination for the West Nile virus. Although the likelihood of catching the virus in the first place is minimal, if you do get it, you become a member of one of the largest minorities in American society.

Even more surprising than the number of people who have to the virus is the percentage that doesn’t even know that they have it. With these people in mind, the city of Houston spent last week under the influence of preventative mosquito spray. But it remains to be seen how much good these efforts will churn out.

The conclusion remains a question because of the carriers. Like any other viable plague, the virus doesn’t stoop to traveling on its own.

Mosquitoes, in this case, ferry it around town. As a rule, they’re more active toward the end of fall, which is why the virus appears to peak between August and September. Any later than that, and the bugs become susceptible to chillier turns of weather.

That’s not to say the virus dies with them, though. If anything, it hibernates. It doesn’t disappear entirely so much as it takes a brief exit from the world stage, capitalizing on the lack of attention in order to do what it does best — spread.

At any given time, 30 percent of those infected suffer from severe symptoms, and although the chance of a fatality among this population is a distant one, it has to be taken seriously in the way that infectious diseases with grievous potentials ought to be.

Since the beginning of the most recent outbreak, Dallas County has had a total of nine deaths. To put that in perspective, there have only been three West Nile-related deaths for the entire year in Greece thus far. And yet, there were three times as many a couple hours’ drive from Houston. County Judge Clay Jenkins deemed the outbreak to be a public health emergency, and the surrounding areas took note.

And few jurisdictions have taken the threat more seriously than Houston. Although more than half of the state’s deaths have occurred in Dallas, our city has approached the threat from a distance.

It explains the preventative rubdowns of the campus last week. But while the city’s efforts are especially generous, you can’t help but wonder whether they’re being routed in the wrong direction.

Is lathering the town in bug spray more fruitful than redirecting the time and expense on viral awareness? Or would a series of deftly maneuvered announcements, from radio, televisions and newspapers, yield more caution amongst Houstonians than an occasional email reminder?

This isn’t to admonish the efforts that have taken place so far: They’ve been pretty admirable. But effort only runs parallel to education. Until the city takes it upon themselves to soak its denizens’ psyches as thoroughly as they have the streets, the numbers might not stay stagnant for long.

Bryan Washington is a sociology and English sophomore and may be reached at [email protected]

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