Look at any state or local website run by a public health authority and you will see information, glaring warnings, about the the dangers of West Nile virus. West Nile is an illness transmitted by mosquitoes that has been seen in humans in the United States for about 12 years. It’s an import, from overseas.
While searching for information about whooping cough, pertussis, case numbers on various sites I began to notice the “West Nile panic“. Lots of information about West Nile but far less about illnesses, serious illnesses with much larger case numbers.
Here are some case number examples from the CDC MMWR week 35 report for September 5, 2010.
/ Whooping cough
In 2007, Michigan reported 392 cases of AIDS, 4,191 cases of Chickenpox, 292 cases of Whooping Cough and 17 of West Nile.
For that same year, New York State, including New York City, reported 3,984 cases of AIDS, did not report chickenpox and 22 cases of West Nile.
Is the allocation of scarce public health resources to massive West Nile educational campaigns a wise choice? Looking at the case numbers for Chlamydia and Gonorrhea in the table suggest at least one place where educational dollars might be better used. The outbreaks of Whooping Cough and Mumps in 2009 and 2010 certainly could have been reduced with funding for more immunizations clinics.
Do public health agencies serve the interests of the taxpayers? Billions of dollars have been spent on illnesses such as SARS, bird flu, anthrax and smallpox, and are now being spent on West Nile. Is that protecting the public?