Tuesday, January 22, 2013

West Nile Virus Program Cancelled

About a decade ago, there was quite a scare about West Nile Virus and that there could be a potential outbreak within Metro Vancouver. A human infected with West Nile Virus could either experience no symptoms, cold/flu-like symptoms, or in 1% of the cases a central nervous system infection. West Nile Virus is spread by mosquitoes. The best way to control the virus is to control the mosquito population.

In 2005, Metro Vancouver created a West Nile mosquito control program and received funding from the province. In 2012, the province stopped funding this program; in addition both the Fraser Valley and Vancouver Coast Health authority did not recommend any action to monitor or control mosquitoes as apparently there is minimal West Nile virus activity observed in the Pacific Northwest and British Columbia.

Last November, Metro Vancouver started the process of shutting down the West Nile control program. To shut down the control program requires the approval of 2/3 of Metro Vancouver member municipalities as it is repealing a bylaw. I’m sure that there will be no issue in securing the required votes. What I found interesting was the note in the City of Langley’s agenda package on the issue that basically said that if a West Nile control should be required in the future, it should be a 100% provincial responsibility and 100% provincially funded. I believe that is true and maybe this is a bit of pushback from the years of downloading of responsibility from the province to local government without adequate and/or with unpredictable funding.

I should point out that Metro Vancouver will still fund mosquito control in areas like Coquitlam, Maple Ridge, Pitt Meadows, Surrey and the Township of Langley because there they are still considered a nuisance. I wonder, now that the West Nile program will be cancelled, if there will be a noticeable increase in annoying mosquitos.

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