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Florida Medical Entomology Laboratory

Florida Medical Entomology Laboratory

2002 FMCA Fall Meeting

The 2002 FMCA meeting held at the Amelia Island Plantation was a notable event for several reasons. There were many noteworthy presentations, including topics in operational mosquito control, trapping, Florida arthropod-borne diseases, worker protection, mosquito molecular biology and many other topics. Among the symposia, two certainly will be long remembered. There was a symposium reviewing the many contributions of E. John Beidler to Florida Mosquito Control. His influence on all aspects of mosquito control from operations to research was reviewed. John Beidler has long been recognized as the Dean of Florida Mosquito Control. The Beidler Symposium highlighted many of the reasons why this nom de plume is deserved.

Dr. Roxanne Connelly's symposium presented information concerning getting correct messages out through the media. The papers in this symposium provided invaluable advice on how to work with the media in radio, film, television and print to ensure a positive experience in getting across the correct messages concerning mosquito control to the public. The heightened awareness about mosquito control due to West Nile virus has left many mosquito control professionals in the uncomfortable media spotlight. Dr. Rutledge's symposium helped to reduce the anxiety about media attention.

The highlight of the meeting came at the conclusion of the last day when Charles Bronson, the Florida Commissioner of Agriculture personally addressed the Association. Commissioner Bronson provided a review of his concerns about West Nile virus in Florida. He then conducted a lively discussion with the members of the Association specifically to elicit FMCA's views on the impact of West Nile in Florida and to give members a chance to provide their advice on what Florida needs to do to reduce the impact of a West Nile outbreak.

Commissioner Bronson expressed his concerns about West Nile virus. He shared FMCA's concerns that a large outbreak in Florida would have devastating consequences for Florida's citizens, public health and the Florida economy. The members of the Association warmly agreed with Commissioner Bronson and many participants expressed to the Commissioner the concern that Florida may indeed experience a major West Nile virus outbreak in the near future with 1000's of human and horse cases. The Commissioner agreed with the Association that it was imperative for the State of Florida to begin to invest now with additional resources to improve mosquito control. The Association participants applauded Commissioner Bronson's efforts. Several participants specifically expressed that it was essential for the state to place more money in support of the research efforts of the two state laboratories to provide the needed information to enable mosquito control to improve its efficacy, efficiency and propriety, particularly to impact West Nile virus. The significance of the lack of research support for Florida mosquito research has been discussed in previous Buzzwords (Florida's Mosquito Control Research Program: Scant resources and missed opportunities. Buzzwords Jan/Feb 2002).

Other topics that were discussed included the need for support to enable mosquito control to address water quality issues, worker compensation and insurance issues for pilots. The Commissioner was supportive and agreed to work closely on these issues with mosquito control.

The meeting with Commissioner Bronson represents an important milestone for the Florida Mosquito Control Association. The Commissioner requested that FMCA formulate a policy letter setting forth the Association's concerns about West Nile virus, needs from the state to address this issue and to provide this directly to his office so that the Commissioner can have information to move forward. FMCA has an exciting opportunity to work more closely with the Commissioner and to have a positive impact on the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. This was an exciting meeting and Commissioner Bronson deserves our commendation for meeting with us and eliciting our views.

Walter J. Tabachnick, Ph.D. - Retired
Florida Medical Entomology Laboratory
University of Florida/IFAS