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West Nile? Don't Kill The Birds!

by Adam Enright Monday, May. 10, 2004 at 1:09 PM

Saskatoon City Councellor Terry Elm has tabled a motion for a mass killing of birds to prevent the spread of West Nile. Statistics show you're at least fifty times more likely to die in your car driving to buy bug spray, or the carcinogenic effects of bug spray, than you are from West Nile itself.

West Nile?

Saskatoon City Councellor Terry Elm has tabled a motion for a mass killing of birds to prevent the spread of West Nile. Write Saskatoon City Council and demand they refuse such a move! city.clerks@city.saskatoon.sk.ca

When most people hear of the many deaths caused by something as exotic and arbitrary as the west nile disease, they become frightened. Some may even fear camping or choose to limit their time outside. Politicians have reacted to these fears by ordering the mass spraying of huge tracts of our natural landscape and are now ordering the mass killings of crows and other bird species.

If you look at the statistics behind the hot-button issue of West Nile, the danger seems to originate not with mosquitoes or crows but with media fear-mongering and gullible politicians. Statistics show you're at least fifty times more likely to die in your car driving to buy bug spray, or the carcinogenic effects of bug spray, than you are from West Nile itself.

Around sixty seven thousand Canadians die of cancer per year and over eighty thousand from cardiovascular diseases. (statscan) In most of these cases the conditions were brought on by lifestyle choices and are preventable. Much cardiovascular disease is related to work-related stress and inactivity. Six thousand die from diabetes, also largely a lifestyle related disease. Four thousand Canadians die from common influenza and pneumonia. (statscan) These too are preventable. In other major causes of death, nine thousand are from unintentional accidents. (statscan) Much of these deaths are work-related. Three thousand of those deaths are caused by motor vehicle accidents. (statscan) Every year, about 10,000 children – 12 and under – are injured, some of them fatally, in traffic collisions in Canada. (CAA)

The number of deaths in Canada attributable to West Nile last year : fourteen. The year before that: twenty. (cbc)

In the US the numbers are even more mind-boggling. Try ranking the following in order of the number of American lives they claim in a typical year: food, guns, flu, cars and West Nile.

The most deadly are automobiles, which kill 117 Americans a day, or nearly 43,000 a year. Then comes flu, which (along with pneumonia, its associated disease) kills 36,000 people. Third is guns: 26,000 deaths. Fourth, food-borne illness: 5,000. (indymedia) Last year, two hundred eighty-four Americans died from west nile. (U.S. NBII National Biological Information Infrastructure)

This summer, please keep in mind you're probably safer in the woods (even with the monstrous mosquitoes) than you are in a car, at work, on the couch, or in a supermarket.

Adam Enright

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