Sunday, August 1, 2010

Bear Risk vs. Mosquito Risk

We have bears and other critters pass our way regularly - so regularly that we have taken to carrying pepper spray whenever we work outdoors, and keep a bear gun nearby.  That having been said, we've never had to shoot any predator, four-legged (or two-) in thirty-plus years out here.  But lately, truth be told, I'm more worried about mosquitoes than furry forest beasts.  There were 720 West Nile cases in the U.S in 2009, and 32 deaths.  In Canada in 2009 we had 32 confirmed clinical cases and no deaths.  (Neither country reports the number of people left with permanent neurological problems however.)  This compares with Stephen Herrero's data which states an average of 2.9 bear attacks per year for each the 1990s.  (So far 2000-2010 stats are 2.7 attacks per country per year and likely to rise to 2.9 due to several recent highly-publicized maulings.)  According to Alberta Health's site, 1 in 5 who become infected with West Nile virus by a mosquito will become ill and "a very few" of those will progress to the neurological syndrome, but 50% of those who do will be left with long-term neurological effects.  Okay, so the risk of a mosquito attack resulting permanent debilitation is less than that of a bear attack, but you only need to get attacked by Yogi once - how many mosquito bites did you get golfing or camping last weekend?