Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Putting a Price Tag on Public Health

The July 16 edition of the Boston Globe had a story about Eastern Equine Encephalitis, by writer Martine Powers.

Triple E is a mosquito borne illness, and it's early this year:

Catherine Brown, the state public health veterinarian, explained that two types of mosquitoes carry the virus. The species that bites birds is often discovered carrying the virus early in the summer, she said. But the kind that targets mammals, including humans, is not typically found with the virus until about July 25.

The discovery of mammal-biting insects carrying the virus in the second week of July, she said, is a cause for concern.

Mosquito samples in Easton and Carver have come back positive for carrying the virus. Easton, Raynham, and Taunton have all been declared at high risk for the virus.

Last year Martin Newfields of Raynham died after contracting the virus.

Towns in southeastern MA are rescheduling evening activities, stocking up on bug spray, and trying to get their towns, counties, or the state to do mosquito spraying.
Meanwhile in Raynham:

Last year, after Newfield’s death, municipalities pointed fingers at the state government for failing to conduct aerial sprays early in the season. At that time, Alfred DeMaria, an epidemiologist at the Department of Public Health, said there is no evidence that aerial spraying is more effective than ground spraying, and each aerial spraying costs the state about $1 million.

Given that the mosquitos are early, the municipalities are struggling with how to stretch their spraying dollars, since the mosquito threat lasts until the first heavy frost. That was the point made by Joe Pacheco, the chairman of Raynham's Board of Selectmen.

“It’s a matter of public health,” Pacheco said. “The governor should not be putting a price tag on public health. That’s just not acceptable."

Perhaps in Massachusetts folks don't like the idea of putting a price tag on public health. The New Hampshire legislature had no such difficulty:


Effective July 1, 2006, RSA 141-C:25 established a mosquito control fund in the NH DHHS to assist cities, towns, and mosquito control districts by providing funding to offset mosquito control activities. During passage of the State Fiscal Year 2012-2013 budget, this program was unfunded. As such no reimbursement funds will be awarded in calendar years 2011 and 2012. Funding for the program beyond State Fiscal Year 2013 will be contingent upon decision making during the next budget cycle.

The mosquito control program was de-funded by the current legislature, who apparently feel that any investment in public health is too high a price to pay.

In 2005, seven human cases of EEE were found in NH, and two people died as a result. A number of horses, alpacas, and other mammals have also contracted the disease over the years and died. The virus has come early to our neighbors to the south this year, which can only mean that southern NH will be at risk earlier than usual.

According to this 2009 report from the UNH County Extension program, Rockingham County is the part of our state that is at the highest risk for Triple E.

Rockingham County is also a the strongest bastion of GOP support in the state.

"Irony is just honesty with the volume cranked up." ~ George Saunders

1 comment:

Molly Hillyman said...

It's nice of you to have put up a write about this. I didn't know about it at all until I came across this article. Public health is no light matter to take it for granted. Health can be expensive, but it's worth every cent.