Frommer bites into mosquito budget

Josh Kleinbaum

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

Equestrian Center.

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."

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