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The Animal Science Blog is the place for conversation and discussion about scientific and technological topics related to pets, livestock, and other animals. See how cutting-edge advances help - or hinder - species around the world.

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Are Viruses Lurking at Foreclosed Homes?

Posted July 08, 2009 12:01 AM by SavvyExacta

When it was new, West Nile virus generated a lot of press and a lot of fear. To some, it became a bit of a joke. In high school, I remember friends calling out, "West Nile alert!", whenever they saw a pool of standing water or a group of mosquitoes buzzing by.

Over the years, most of us have learned to eliminate sources of standing water around our homes, have become accustomed to notices of towns eliminating mosquitoes, and regularly take precautions to protect ourselves from insects when we venture into the outdoors. But resilient viruses always find a way to live on.

Home Foreclosures on the Rise

It's no secret that the economy isn't doing so well in the U.S. Many Americans worry about the threat of having their homes foreclosed. Apart from the trauma of a family being torn from a home and that house subsequently being sold by the bank, most of us aren't aware of what happens in the time in between.

According to a FOX News article, the answer is "not much". This is troublesome for homes with swimming pools as they become huge mosquito breeding grounds when there's no one around to perform routine maintenance. When there are a large group of unattended pools in one area, this can especially become a problem.

Both Florida and Texas have reported a rise in the issue of abandoned swimming pools. In Texas, city workers are draining and cleaning them – in Fort Worth alone, it has been 17 in seven months.

Mosquitoes and Disease

Mosquitoes that carry West Nile virus and encephalitis breed in swimming pools. While some areas treat mosquitoes with chemicals that can solve the problem, others have changed to greener methods. Fish are now added to waterways to eat mosquito larvae; but obviously, the fish are no help for swimming pools!

Some southern states are counting the number of foreclosed homes with swimming pools. Other states use another method to predict the activity level of West Nile virus.

Tracking Dead Birds

Some states use dead birds and other data to track West Nile virus. California, for example, encourages its residents to report dead birds and squirrels via a toll free phone number. The data is tracked on a website.

According to the site, the State of California uses the reports to identify areas of increased activity. This information can help alert communities that there could be a health risk.



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Join Date: Jul 2007
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Re: Are Viruses Lurking at Foreclosed Homes?

07/08/2009 9:43 AM

I'm glad that I live in an urban area where few people have pools! I too remember when West Nile was announced and the ensuing panic that followed. Now though, its rare to hear much about it - instead its all swine/bird/whatever other animal flu coverage.

The California Department of Health's tracking website is amazing - it's so incredibly detailed even on the homepage. It's great that they've broken down the information in so many ways: animal/carrier, county, weekly, YTD. Just, wow.

I'm grateful for this article; since I live in New York State, I feel like we don't hear as much about WNV compared with places with consistantly warm climates. It's good to be in the know!

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Re: Are Viruses Lurking at Foreclosed Homes?

07/08/2009 10:37 AM

Very interesting information. I am glad that West Nile Virus is getting some attention during this season. I am always wary of standing bodies of water.


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Re: Are Viruses Lurking at Foreclosed Homes?

07/09/2009 10:41 AM that I'm standing on my pool deck eating a pulled pork taco...

All joking aside, I just finished draining a neighbors pool for that exact reason. It's been major hot here in the Midwest. We have had skeeter problems in the past, because of the rivers. This pool thing isn't helping any.

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