We must take action

Published 12:00 am Monday, August 12, 2002

Recently the mayor said that the city was doing all that it could to fight the mosquitoes and the invasion of the West Nile virus. He also stated that city could only do so much when private property was involved.

If there were a rabid dog on private property, would the city's animal control officers sit back on their heels and wait for it to wander onto a public street? Does the city not require pet owners to give their dogs rabies shots, and fine them when they do not?

What we are dealing with is far worse than a rabid dog. Although the dog may appear more fearsome, foaming at the mouth and lunging out, it gives far more warning that the tiny mosquito, and its victims number far less. According to the Surgeon General, the WNV is reaching epidemic proportions, crossing state lines and spreading rapidly across more than three dozen states. Birds with the virus have been found here. Two victims have been diagnosed in Alabama, one in Daleville, one in Houston County.

The governor certainly sees the need for a more aggressive approach, asking the National Guard to fight mosquitoes in rural areas. Why can't the city share that attitude?

In Louisiana, seven people are dead who might not be if the state had chosen to act proactively rather than reactively. Only after four died did they begin comprehensive prevention, dropping pellets into the many waterways of that state that prevent the development of larvae. Are those pellets only accessible to Louisiana? How many in Andalusia will have to sicken or die before the city begins cleaning up the breeding grounds and cracking down on those who allow them to exist?

According to attorney Tom Albritton, there is no specific ordinance against those who allow standing water – and potential breeding grounds – but he added that the problem would be covered under a general nuisance abatement ordinance that the city does have. Albritton said that "would cover anything that is pest producing."

This does, in fact, give the city the right to address private citizens about such stagnant pools on the property and to take action against them. To call it a "general nuisance" seems a gross understatement, however. After a young girl was mauled by two dogs at a public park, it took no time at all for the city to pass an ordinance forbidding dogs in parks and other public venues. It is that speed of action we need now.

The ordinance needs to be more stringently enforced, with the city giving the property owner time to clean up the area, or doing it for him and fining him, as well as charging him for the labor.

To fight this disease, we must work together. Residents must keep private property free from breeding grounds, the city must do the same for public properties.

But the residents have another way of protecting their families from this disease - they must call their council members and the mayor and insist on definitive action. The disease affects the elderly, the very young, and those with lowered immune systems, which can include those on chemotherapy, diabetics, or those with auto-immune deficiency disorders. Everyone in Andalusia knows someone within that grouping. Will it take your mother's, your neighbor's, or your brother's death to raise your voice to City Hall?

The mayor and the council members can be reached at the following numbers: City Hall, 222-3313; Councilmen

Bridges Anderson, 222-4930; Michael Jones, 222-5367; Andy Alexander, 222-2335; Jerry Andrews, 222-6438; Harry Hinson, 222-4250, and Mayor Earl Johnson, 222-3569.