Thursday, May 23, 2013
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Federal CDC officials report that less than 1 percent of people infected with West Nile will develop serious illness. Among patients with severe illness, the fatality rate ranges from 3 to 15 percent, with the highest rates occurring among the elderly.
Jennings said the board expects that the proposed rule changes are likely to generate controversy, and some groups are already concerned -- especially organic farmers.
Katy Green, organic transitions director with the Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association in Unity, said the nonprofit organization, which represents some 7,000 members in Maine, is worried about "the feasibility of limiting aerial spraying."
If an organic farmer's fields or orchards are inadvertently hit by drifting spray, they "couldn't sell any of those products as organic," she said. "They're worried about their livelihoods."
Organic growers and farmers in York County and some other areas of southern Maine -- where the incidence of West Nile- and EEE-infected mosquitoes has tended to be higher -- would likely be especially vulnerable to the consequences of widespread spraying, she said.
But others characterized the board's action as a necessary step.
"What the state is doing is being prudent to be prepared," said Ted St. Amand, president of Atlantic Pest Solutions of Arundel, a company that handled ground spraying around two elementary schools in Lebanon last summer.
Widespread spraying involves the use of nonselective or broad-spectrum pesticides, which are designed to accomplish "a flash kill of adult mosquitoes," St. Amand said. He said the poison will also kill other species of insects.
But targeting spray programs at times of the day when mosquitoes are active and other insects' activities recede could help reduce negative impacts, he said.
"The state is not looking for a blank check" to spray, Amand said. "They have to weigh the pros and cons," but all indicators are that the mosquitoes and these diseases "are going to continue to grow and move northward."
Staff Writer North Cairn can be reached at 791-6325 or at