Don’t hit the panic button

The word epidemic is being used to describe the West Nile Virus in Louisiana where eight people have died. That word, Monday night at a public information meeting in Pelham, was also used to describe the disease in Alabama, where five people have tested positive.

According to Shelby County health officials who led the meeting, six birds have tested positive for the virus in the county but no humans so far.

A man at the meeting said his neighbor is currently being tested to see if she has the virus. Although his claim could not be confirmed, a few of the 100 or so residents in attendance at the meeting, had worried looks on their faces.

Well, as Pelham city officials and county health officials said, &uot;It is not time to panic,&uot; but instead &uot;… time to get educated.&uot;

When the topic of spraying came up, one resident wanted to hear nothing of it.

The man said his young boy has asthma, and spraying would worsen the boy’s respiratory problems.

&uot;Think of my child and how it would effect him,&uot; he said. &uot;Is it worth that risk if we are going to kill just a few mosquitoes?&uot;

About 20 other people asked questions at the meeting. Here is a sample of them and answers by county health officials, Environmentalist Bill Banks and Health Department Director Jim Hollins:

What happens if I have standing water in my yard?

Standing water is only a problem if it sits for seven to 10 days allowing mosquitoes time to breed.

What about my bird bath or baby pool?

Replace with fresh water once a week.

What about my swimming pool?

As long as the chlorine and pH levels are monitored, mosquitoes cannot use a swimming pool to breed.

Are bug zappers effective?

No.

What is the best type of mosquito repellent?

The types which contain at least 10 percent DEET.

Why won’t the health department take a dead bird found in my yard?

Health officials will only take dead birds that are blue jays, crows and raptors. Once two positive birds are found in a zip code, no more are taken. Health officials are only surveying to find the areas, or zip codes, that have the virus.

What about young children?

Keep them inside during the early morning hours and in the evening just after dusk. Also dress them in light-colored clothing when outdoors.

My advice: use common sense and listen to the experts. Also don’t depend solely on county and city governments. Go down to Home Depot or Lowe’s and pick up some mosquito spray. Let’s take some responsibility ourselves