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Sue Carlson, Jamestown, N.D., Published October 19 2013

Letter: ND lags in West Nile campaign

According to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention statistics released Sept. 17, North Dakota and South Dakota have some of the highest reported West Nile virus cases in the nation this year.

Our neighbor was diagnosed with West Nile; while she was in our local hospital, three others were also admitted with it. I still haven’t read or heard anything about this in the news.

This is a serious public health issue. Birds, particularly crows, carry the virus; mosquitoes feed on the birds; the mosquitoes bite people, transmitting the virus. Ticks can transmit it as well.

In hindsight, we noticed a dead crow near our property last year right before I became ill. If you contract West Nile and are one of the unfortunate 10 percent who develop encephalitis and/or meningitis, this is a tough battle. I had this one year ago and am nearly feeling like myself again after numerous tests, misdiagnosis and finally trips to Mayo Clinic.

I’ve never been surveyed or asked what my long-term residual problems have been. This summer, I called the North Dakota Health Department in Bismarck. They said last year there were 89 cases in the state, and they found themselves on overload and did no follow-up. Wouldn’t one think with the explosion of cases, there should be more follow-up with those who’ve contracted it, as well as stepped up public service announcements to inform the public, notifying the public when there are reported cases in their community, and other appropriate actions that would raise public awareness?

North Dakota is fortunate to have a huge budget surplus, but sadly there is inadequate money for the Health Department to do follow-up, or for statewide insect control. I learned while speaking with the Health Department that vector control is local, not a statewide standard or recommendation.

In Jamestown, we pay $1 per month for mosquito control, and as far as I know and what others in Jamestown have said, minimal or no spraying occurred this year. I think last year they finally sprayed in mid-August once a few West Nile cases were reported (mine was reported on Aug. 1).

I like what Grand Forks has implemented. Rather than waiting for infected mosquitoes to appear in their traps, they’re being pro-active by spraying and raising public awareness of basic recommendations:

North Dakota’s Legislature worries about women’s health in terms of pregnancy, but we don’t have a public health plan when it comes to West Nile virus and other animal-to-human transmitted diseases, which could be prevented and/or minimized. North Dakota can do better.