Zika Virus? Naled? Should parents in Louisiana be concerned?
Don't Panic! The media has spent a lot of time and focus on Zika-it's practically being treated as the Big Bad Wolf of diseases for 2016. All of the negative press might make it seem more relevant for a pregnant mom here in the United States than perhaps it should be-it's not likely to ever be a widespread problem here! Here is a quote from Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (September 2016) "Zika is not going to be a major public health problem in the U.S."
Disclaimer, I am not a medical professional, nor am I a toxicologist, just a concerned parent investigating this issue. This is a summary of information I found helpful when trying to clarify the information on Zika.
What’s the big deal about Zika?
Zika is a virus that has been identified for more than 60 years. It is not widespread in the United States, but is in many other countries throughout the Caribbean and South America, as well as Africa, including epidemic levels of infection in Columbia, and Brazil. (CDC complete list of countries with it here). Starting in 2014 and through 2015, Brazil doctors noticed an unusual increase in birth defects (specifically microcephaly, in a very localized area). Many of the mothers reported having Zika symptoms in pregnancy, which wasn’t unusual because Zika is widespread (like the common cold) in Brazil. It was speculated that Zika might be causing microcephaly.
Has this been proven? Not definitively. It remains a correlation, not a causation. The Brazilian Health Ministry is now saying that Zika alone is probably NOT the culprit, because the birth defects are extremely localized in the northern corner of the country and are not occurring over all countries where the virus is distributed, but in specific areas only. (sources below)
Columbia has had thousands of pregnant women with Zika infections (just like Brazil) and has had NO increase in microcephaly, which supports the theory that Zika alone isn't responsible:
At this point the link is speculative at best, and there are almost certainly co-factors that cause (or work with zika to cause) the birth defects. That being said, using the precautionary principle in pregnancy (avoiding things that could possibly cause harm) is always a good plan of action. Which brings us to the spraying of Naled.
What is Naled?
Naled is a pesticide used predominantly in aerial spraying for control of mosquitoes. Naled is illegal in Europe, and will be up for approval review by EPA. Naled causes birth defects in animals, especially in prenatal brain development. Research shows that only a 3 day exposure to Naled reduced fetal brain size by 15%.
Naled was recently sprayed in South Carolina (for Zika fears), and it decimated millions of bees. It is very toxic to animals and insects. South Carolina has no locally acquired Zika.
As Zika cases mounted in Puerto Rico, the federal plan of action was to spray Naled. The Puerto Rican people spoke up in outrage, demonstrated & marched, and their Governor refused to spray Naled because it is shown to cause harm to humans and wildlife. There are less toxic and more effective ways to handle mosquitoes such as BTi, and Zika hasn't been proven to cause birth defects alone-but Naled has. Puerto Rican mosquitoes actually carry Zika, but they still opted out of using Naled.
Is Naled the most effective method for mosquito control? The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has written that “adulticiding, application of chemicals to kill adult mosquitoes by ground or aerial applications, is usually the least efficient mosquito control technique." Researchers from the New York Department of Health showed that 11 years of Naled spraying was “successful in achieving short-term reductions in mosquito abundance, but populations of the disease-carrying mosquito of concern “increased 15-fold over the 11 years of spraying."
Is Zika In Louisiana? No. There has never been a locally-acquired case of Zika in Louisiana. Some residents who traveled to regions with Zika have caught it. The only domestically acquired cases of Zika in the whole United States have been identified in Southern Florida, and only a handful of cases (current count is 14 individuals, according to September news).
Why is Lafayette, LA planning to spray Naled? Nanette Cook, City-Parish Councilwoman District 7, spoke to Bernadette Lee of KPEL News concerning the fight against mosquito borne illnesses, and said: "We (officials) are adding a new aerial spraying (Naled)... going to spray 135,000 acres of Lafayette parish. ...we have to do it with the Zika scare." Zika isn’t even in Louisiana, and if Naled causes the same birth defect that Zika is theorized to potentially cause, why would that be the plan of action to prevent birth defects?
Cameron Parish confirmed that they have sprayed Naled 6 times in the past year-for mosquito control in general, not particularly for Zika. Jeff Davis Parish Mosquito Abatement stated that they have not used Naled since immediately after Hurricane Rita, as it is not the preferred method of treatment, and that they have no plans to use it in the near future.
How can you minimize exposure to toxins for your family and your animals? Reach out to your parish and local government. Speak with mosquito abatement, and find out what pesticides they are using. They do not announce policy or routine changes publicly, you have to inquire for that information. Our children and animals and environment are not less valuable than those in Europe and Puerto Rico where they refuse to use more toxic pesticides like Naled. You may be able to request your home not to be sprayed-or at least be able to know the dates and times when the aerial applications are scheduled to avoid exposure as much as possible. Our family has been sprayed many times in parks and playing on the baseball or football or soccer field, where kids are basically trapped outdoors and forced to breathe the mist-you can ask your abatement program specifically to not spray around sporting fields until all lights are out, to avoid children having to breathe this toxin while they play.
Final note on Zika: Here in the US it still isn't a major concern, however, should you plan travel to a country where it is epidemic or endemic (or Miami, FL), you may want to discuss concerns & travel plans with your health care provider-especially if you are pregnant or plan to become pregnant in the near future.
note: there are several groups on facebook addressing this topic where you may find more locally relevant information. The "Acadiana Flooding Message Board" is one, and "Stop Spraying Naled" is another.