It isn’t easy to stay optimistic in these days of 24-hour news. Especially because those reporting the news believe unless it is bad it isn’t news. We are bombarded by tragedies and because this is an election year, as always in those years, there is a  surplus of political half truths bordering on lies.

During the 1952 presidential election Adlai Stevenson and Dwight Eisenhower were trading verbal blows. Adlai said, “If they will stop telling lies about the Democrats, we will stop telling the truth about them.”

Last week on the front page of our morning newspaper I was greeted by a photograph so heart-warming it washed all negative thoughts away. Three little sisters, age three, five and six were busy trying to catch minnows in a small creek of water that barely covered their bare feet. The three-year old was looking into the camera as she stretched out her hand while trying to explain what they were doing.

It was truly one of those pictures to remember but it meant even more because under the picture a few words explained that the girls’ daddy, also pictured in the background, took them on an outing every week on his day off. What an example of a special father. Those three daughters will cherish the memories they are building.   

Earlier I had seen another picture of a spot full of discarded tires. A group of youngsters had turned this into a playground and were jumping in the tires. This picture brought to mind a warning about such tires I had read recently. It stated that more than any place mosquitoes thrive in the moist, hidden gullies of water in used automobile tires and definitely no place for youngsters to play.

Summer weather is pleasant for humans but it is paradise for mosquitoes. Most people give them little thought except to swat at them if they get too close. They have always been summer pests but lesser known as carriers of some very bad diseases. After years of research it is believed that mosquitoes are responsible for roughly half the deaths in human history.

There are more than three thousand species of these varmints but only a few hundred species need blood to live. Those are the ones that seek out humans. A book by entomologist Andrew Spielman published in 2001 was titled  Mosquito: The Story of Man’s Deadliest Foe and it tells why that is so.

For more than 200 years yellow fever was one of the great plagues of the world but the cause was unknown. In 1881 a Cuban scientist published his theory that the disease was transmitted by the mosquito. In 1878 Memphis, Tennessee was struck by a deadly epidemic of yellow fever following a summer of heavy rain. In 1900 a study led by Major Walter Reed proved that the virus was transmitted by mosquitoes but completely preventable by controlling the insect. By the 1930s two vaccines were available to produce immunity in humans.  

There was still much work to be done because the mosquito also transmits dengue fever which has no vaccine or cure and continues to infect millions world-wide. It is a carrier of malaria and new to the list is the West Nile virus.

The final solution is to eradicate mosquitoes. In 2012 after years of experimenting scientists are now able to genetically modify mosquitoes so they are unable to reproduce. Numbers of these mosquitoes are being released in several places to test if this is the answer to no more mosquitoes.

In the meantime don’t allow youngsters to play around used tires!

• • •

Dorothy Copus Brush is a Fairfield Glade resident and Crossville Chronicle staffwriter whose column is published each Wednesday. She may be reached at dcb1@frontiernet.net.

This Week's Circulars