Choices Based on Science

October 11, 2014 -- Florida is often mocked for its historical role in national politics.  But much of what is critical to life in this state is determined by our state and local elected officials.  Tom and I take voting very seriously.
Great blue heron, flying through the back yard.

For years, I've been involved with the political process although I have not run for political office.  My past involvement and attention to these matters means that a number of people who know me will ask me how they should vote.

Some choices are so obvious, and some are so partisan, that choices are made by those individuals without any advice from me.  But there are those seemingly "obscure" positions on the ballot, like hospital board representatives, mosquito control district representatives, judges, and even school board members for which people seek my opinion.

Regardless of their requests, I put plenty of time into researching these options, and making my choices. The requests from others apply another layer of responsibility to my decision-making. So I work even harder.

Yesterday, my friend Sally-Jane made the first request for my recommendations for the November 4 election.  (I had several requests in the summer, for the August Florida primary election.)  So this morning, I finished my research and decision-making for mosquito control district, school board, and hospital board.

Something like the "mosquito control board" might seem frivolous to those who don't live in the subtropics.  But trust me, mosquito control is a deadly serious subject here.  Diseases like chikungunya can and do exist in south Florida, and they're spread by mosquitoes.

About 10 days after our arrival in France in July, the first locally acquired cases of chikungunya occurred in the U.S. -- in Florida, of course.  Prior to those two cases, the presence of the disease in the U.S. was limited to people who'd traveled abroad where they'd caught the disease.

The two cases in July involved people in Miami-Dade and Palm Beach counties.  They marked the presence of the chikungunya virus in Florida mosquitoes.  The disease is usually not fatal, but causes high fever and awful joint pain.  The only treatment is pain relief.
Lots of white water birds visited us in March 2012.

The two kinds of mosquitoes that carry chikungunya have been in the U.S. for some time.  It is only recently that the chikungunya virus has been detected in those American mosquitoes.  Officials are not expecting huge outbreaks.  But they don't know how many people will catch the disease in Florida and Texas.  (The same is true for dengue fever.)

I once was told that Lee County, Florida (where we live), spends more on mosquito control than anyplace else in the world.  I can believe it; mosquito control is a line item on our property tax bills.

Mosquito control is a delicate business, because we Floridians don't kill all mosquitoes -- that would be damaging to the environment.  Instead, the focus is on killing the "immatures," with the least damaging but effective treatment.

There are many types of mosquitoes, and the best treatment at the moment depends on which ones are out there on a given day.  To determine this, the mosquito control district people send out trucks with cones on top.  The cones collect mosquitoes (usually just after dusk) and take them back to the laboratory off of Buckingham Road, on the mainland.  There technicians determine what species are present in each collection, and they then decide what the best treatment will be.

The next day, helicopters or planes fly overhead and spray the appropriate solution over the appropriate areas.  Ground trucks are used to spray some parts of the county, but on the island, we generally get aerial spraying (with a few exceptions).
June 2011

Most of us never know when or what day our neighborhoods might be sprayed.  But if you're really sensitive to the sprays that might be used, you can place your home on the "notification list."  Then you will be notified if your area is going to be sprayed.  The decision of where and what to spray is usually made by about 2PM each day.

Likewise, if you think your neighborhood is having a particularly bad mosquito day, you can call the mosquito control district and or make an online request for treatment.  The mosquito control people seem to take those requests into genuine consideration.

So what does all of this mean when it is time to vote for members of the mosquito control district board?  In my opinion, it means selecting the people who will make decisions based on sound science, not politics.

I'm ready to vote.  (If you're a Lee County voter who wants my recommendations, you may send me a Facebook message.)


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