Hoping to prevent deadly mosquito bites, Assemblyman Dario Frommer
(D-Glendale) is biting into a contentious budget debate.
Frommer asked members of the budget conference committee, which is
trying to hammer out a deal over the state budget, to make two
changes to the budget to help control the spread of the West Nile
Frommer asked the committee to give $1 million to the state's
Department of Health Services to develop a strategic plan for
surveillance, prevention and control of the West Nile virus, and to
restore $12 million of proposed cuts to vector control districts
throughout the state.
"California is experiencing the most serious epidemic of the West
Nile virus in 50 years," Frommer said at Los Angeles' Griffith Park.
"I'm calling for the budget committee to reverse course, I'm calling
for the governor to reverse course, and to change the plan to rip off
$12 million from mosquito abatement."
Fifteen cases of the West Nile virus have been confirmed in
California, including two in Los Angeles County. Mosquitoes carrying
the virus have been confirmed in Glendale near the Los Angeles
Eighty percent of people bitten by an infected mosquito never show
any symptoms of the virus, officials said. Symptoms range from
headache, fever and swollen lymph nodes to cases of encephalitis,
meningitis and acute paralysis. In rare occasions, it can be fatal.
In his budget proposal, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger proposed a
$1.3-billion shift of local revenue to the state government for the
2004-05 fiscal year. That shift includes $12 million intended for
local vector control districts. Ten days into the new fiscal year,
legislators are deadlocked over long-term protection for local
government revenue. The mosquito money has not been debated.
Frommer said members of the conference committee were receptive to
funding the $1 million for the Department of Health but were less
optimistic about restoring funding for the vector control districts.
The Greater Los Angeles Vector Control District, which includes
Glendale and Burbank, would lose about $250,000 of its $7-million
budget. Executive Director Jack Hazelrigg said the district would
probably have to cut its seasonal staff.
"My right arm is the full-time staff, and my left arm is the
seasonal people," Hazelrigg said. "The seasonal people are the people
that spray the gutters, do the postings, things like that."
Hazelrigg said Frommer is the first legislator to champion the
cause of vector districts, but he expects more to join in as the
virus continues to spread.
"We've found positive dead birds in over 100 ZIP Codes," said
Laurene Mascola, chief of acute communicable disease control for the
county's health department. "There are two human cases in Los Angeles
County. But there will be more."