Caution on Proposals to Reduce Florida Mosquito Control Budgets: Dangerous Times and a Step Back for Public Health and Well Being
Florida mosquito control and public health professionals anxiously await the outcome of the Florida Special Legislative session in Tallahassee where Florida's taxation policy including property taxes and millage rates are likely to be changed. County governments and local taxing districts throughout Florida are preparing now for the impact of some of the proposed changes that are being discussed that will impact their budgets and ability to maintain current infrastructure and services. Many Florida county governments have requested plans from their agencies to adjust to 10% and 25% reductions in their budgets.
What does this mean for Florida mosquito control and the future for Florida's capabilities to protect the public health and well being? The bottom line is that reducing budgets translates into reducing Florida's mosquito control capabilities. This is a step in the wrong direction for Florida. Decisions to reduce budgets for mosquito control are fraught with danger that will impact Florida with increased risk from mosquito-borne disease and increased mosquito populations.
The Florida State Legislature through Chapter 388, F.S, mandated that Florida's public policy is to achieve and maintain such levels of arthropod control as will protect human health and safety and foster the quality of life of the people, promote the economic development of the state, and facilitate the enjoyment of its natural attractions by reducing the number of pestiferous and disease-carrying arthropods.
Mosquito control in Florida provides a basic critical public health function and is essential to maintain the well-being of Florida's citizens by keeping Florida's prodigious pest mosquitoes under control. This is something that Florida's citizens take for granted and have come to expect. Florida mosquito control can take great pride in providing services that have reduced the incidence of several diseases. Florida has escaped so far the anticipated large scale West Nile outbreaks that have occurred elsewhere in the U. S. However, Florida remains at risk from West Nile (see Day in this issue), and the threat remains for other mosquito transmitted diseases like Eastern Equine Encephalitis, St. Louis Encephalitis, Dengue, Malaria and Chikungunya.
The economic impact of reduced mosquito control on Florida is hard to measure, but the results of a failure to provide effective mosquito control could be very dramatic. 10% -25% reductions in budgets are drastic and will place almost every mosquito control agency in Florida in the unenviable position of determining which mosquito control operations will be reduced or eliminated entirely. Clearly surveillance capabilities for mosquito-borne diseases are in jeopardy and the potential negative impact in mitigating West Nile outbreaks is discussed elsewhere (Tabachnick 2007) Likely there will be reductions in larviciding, adulticiding, source reductions and almost all operations used to keep mosquito populations at bay. Make no mistake, mosquito control Directors will make the required cuts and will reduce their budgets. However the delusion is that what will remain will provide the public with the mosquito control and protection that Florida is accustomed to. Frankly, it will not. Despite rhetoric preaching "do more with less," the reality is that reductions of this nature mean "doing less with less." This will mean more mosquitoes, greater risk of a disease outbreak, and when the conditions are right, more human cases. Some agencies may believe that funds could be held in reserve to increase mosquito control in an emergency. Reductions of 10%-25% mean that capabilities will be lost in infrastructure that will not readily become available in time even with emergency funding. Make no mistake, reducing mosquito control is a dangerous gamble that could result in a catastrophe for Florida. It is certainly not the right direction for Florida on such an important issue.
Mosquito control and public health professionals have a professional responsibility to advise government policy officials and administrators that reductions in mosquito control will jeopardize Florida's capacity to mitigate mosquitoes and mosquito-borne diseases. An increase in mosquito populations, with increased risk for a mosquitoborne disease outbreak, reduced ability to mitigate outbreaks, and more human cases could result in severe economic and public health problems that will cost the state far more then any savings made by even 25% reductions in mosquito control funds. Reducing Florida mosquito control is counter to providing Florida's citizens adequate and timely mosquito control that will protect public health and well-being.
It is dangerous and irresponsible to believe one can reduce mosquito control capabilities with no risk or consequences. I urge the responsible officials to exercise extreme caution in making these decisions.
- Tabachnick, W. J. 2007. Tough choices for West Nile Virus surveillance programs. BuzzWords 7(2): 6-7.
Walter J. Tabachnick, Ph.D.
Professor, Florida Medical Entomology Laboratory
Department of Entomology and Nematology, University of Florida/IFAS
Vero Beach, Florida
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