Viridian Note 00268: West Nile Virus

Bruce Sterling []

Key concepts: West Nile virus, spread of contagions, mosquitoes, Greenhouse health implications, biological warfare

Attention Conservation Notice: Power of suggestion and placebo effect may start you coughing and itching. Paranoia strikes deep. Morbid; anxigenic; contagious. A lot of interesting links of dubious relevance.


A giant light pollution map. Imagine what it takes to power all that; imagine the heat it gives off.

These bumper-sticker rebels have been getting busy. Look, they've got national chapters now.

"The Pacific Northwest is well on its way to becoming the wind capital of the U.S."

"What you'd really like is a solar panel array on a flexible plastic substrate which you could roll out on your roof like wall paper." bin/WebObjects/UANews.woa/wa/SRStoryDetails?ArticleID=4088

"It has a touch of science fiction," admit the scientists in Munich who have wired up the first conducting nerve chip.

SCIENCE magazine, Vol 293, 24 August 02001, page 1413


North and South. The West Nile virus continues to march across the North American continent at breathtaking pace. This summer it has appeared in many places in the southern U.S. and in southern Canada, and local health authorities everywhere are stepping up surveillance and control efforts. the virus has claimed its first victim this year, a 71-year-old woman from downtown Atlanta who died on 11 August. Three other elderly people == two in Florida, one in New York City == have fallen ill so far.

"West Nile is a mosquito-borne virus that primarily infects birds but can be spread to humans and other mammals. Its first outbreak hit New York City in the summer 2 years ago. Last year it spread to most states in New England and as far south as North Carolina. Now, the agent has also been found in dead birds in Georgia, Florida and Louisiana. 'It's made a big jump,' said virologist Robert Tesh of the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston. (((Note: this Texas medical center is not the Texas medical center drowned in the Great Houston Flood of 2001. Though since it's in Galveston, it must be quite vulnerable to hurricanes. Today, San Antonio is experiencing flash floods. In Austin, it is raining steadily.)))

"Canadian scientists who detected the virus in two dead birds from southern Ontario were still awaiting confirmation from an independent lab at press time. Although mosquito activity dwindles in the northern US and Canada by fall (((in normal weather, that is))) southern states may also see the disease through the winter, Tesh says. And at the rate the virus is advancing, 'I wouldn't be surprised to see it in Houston by the end of the summer.'" (((Examine Viridian Note 00251: Houston Mosquitoes, on the vast host of mosquitoes that followed the Houston Great Flood. Soon they'll be armed!)))

Links: 300/00251_houston_mosquitoes.html

Center for Disease Control's Mosquito-Borne Diseases! This month's special: West Nile Virus.

Texas Department of Health on the West Nile Virus!

(((There are those who wonder why an obscure virus from politically disturbed Egypt suddenly showed up in a major US population center. It's taken two years to spread, but boy is it spreading. Then consider this evil little squib in the same magazine, two pages later.))

Science magazine, vol 293, 24 August 02001, page 1415

"Going Nowhere. Negotiations over measures to ensure compliance with the 30-year-old Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention have come to an ignominious end. Last month the U.S. delegation at the talks announced its staunch opposition to the measures, set out in a draft treaty protocol ((((In Kyoto, they're unsurprised))).

"So the representatives from 55 nations instead tried to craft a consensus statement to preserve the current draft protocol as a basis for future discussions. (((Next summer, let's say, when there's a sudden spike in the encephalitis stats.))).

"But even that document landed in the wastebasket in the final minutes of a monthlong negotiating session that ended 18 August. The U.S. delegation objected to language that hinted at its opposition to the protocol. (((Imagine the lese majeste of telling people that the USA blocks treaties.))) The disagreement doesn't bode well for a November review conference at which treaty states are meant to take stock of potential bioweapons threats that have emerged during the past 5 years. (((How about those mosquitoes that emerged in Texas in the past five days? I killed two in my bathroom this morning. Now my head's all ache-y... <swoon>)))

"Bioweapons expert Graham Pearson of the United Kingdom's University of Bradford predicts 'a lot of recrimination' at that meeting. Others share the pessimism. 'I hate to think that you can't get countries to act unless a disaster strikes,' says Barbara Hatch Rosenberg, chair of the Federation of American Scientists' biological weapons working group." (((Oh come on, Barbara. Would you recognize a biological disaster when it struck you? The Global Climate Coalition could always form a bio-offshoot and deny that the plagues were manmade. What are you supposed to do for us then? And if you know what to do, why didn't you do it for Kyoto?)))

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