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Swat West Nile threat full force

You can't pick up a newspaper, turn on the radio or watch television news today without hearing about the rapid spread of West Nile virus. We all know by now that it's marching across the United States at an alarming pace, leaving in its wake thousands affected and hundreds dead. But just staying informed is not going to solve the problem. We will all still be at risk. Changing our attitudes about the dangers of mosquitoes and taking action against them is what ultimately will make the difference for us all.

In the same way that we were once complacent about the dangers of drunken driving, kids and drugs and the brutal effects of breast cancer, we are faced with another threat to our well-being. Until now, we've read about--but many of us have not taken--personal action to help stop the spread of West Nile virus and other diseases, such as encephalitis and dengue fever, that are transmitted by mosquitoes. Over the last 20 years, the nation has joined to reverse the drinking-and-driving trend. Women are now significantly more proactive in their fight against breast cancer. And a change in attitude has most recently branded parents as the ''anti-drug.'' Just as these causes challenged the country to fight complacency against a public health threat, so too are we challenging America to become involved in this fight to control mosquitoes.

A recent pest control industry survey revealed that Americans are more concerned with mosquitoes than termites, ants or cockroaches. Respondents were more concerned about West Nile virus than Lyme disease or E-coli. However, only 36 percent indicated they were doing anything about it. This underscores America's complacency about controlling mosquito populations. Clearly, mosquitoes are now a public health threat, and we all need to pay attention to the risks. To take action in the fight against the public health dangers of mosquitoes, learn what your community is doing to control mosquitoes. Ask your neighbors what they are doing. Then take an active role in protecting yourself, your families, your neighbors and your community by employing the recommended prevention measure.

Remember, everyone must participate to effectively reduce mosquito populations. If the control program in your community does not meet your standards, take it upon yourself to investigate further. Consider using the expertise of local pest control professionals who often inspect homes and property free of charge. If you still need answers, visit www.pest world.org.

Most important of all, do something. When it comes to the health risks posed by mosquitoes, there is zero room for complacency.

Cindy Mannes,

director of public affairs,

National Pest

Management Association,

Dunn Loring, Va.