Putting The Malaria News In Historic Perspective

The news that four people in Florida contracted malaria from local mosquito populations certainly drew attention because the disease is fatal if left untreated and is almost unheard of in modern times in this country.

There have been some suggestions that this is somehow vaguely connected to rising temperatures associated with climate change.

The reality is more complicated.

Malaria was once a common disease in Florida, according to some older schoolbooks titled Florida: Wealth of Waste? These books were published in the 1940s and 1950 and used in public and private schools and colleges.

In 1930, malaria was the fifth leading cause of death in Florida for children 1 through 4, causing 31.8 deaths per 100,000 population.

In 1940, (see figure above) Florida had the largest concentration of malaria cases in the Southeast. That year Florida officials reported 24,498 cases of malaria, 98 of them resulting in deaths.

There are a number of reasons malaria has declined in Florida.

Chief among them is the fact that homes had gradually become equipped with window screens and door screens to keep mosquitoes out. Today many homes are completely enclosed from the outside because they have air-conditioning.

Mosquito control efforts also increased, though the use of DDT in the early days had some serious environmental effects on wildlife that eventually led to its ban and its replacement with less harmful pesticides. Mosquito repellents also improved.

Also, as in the recent cases, public health surveillance for disease outbreaks is an important tool for detecting outbreaks early and taking appropriate action.



Polk OKs Long-Sought Project To Reduce Peace River Pollution

The Polk County Commission voted June 20 to buy 120 acres on the south shore of Lake Lulu in the Winter Haven Chain of Lakes for an environmental restoration project.

The $480,000 purchase from Harmony on Lake Eloise is part of a $1 million planned appropriation from President Joseph Biden’s American Rescue Plan for land acquisition and design for a wetlands treatment and wildlife habitat restoration project.

No money for construction of the project was listed.

A canal flowing out of Lake Lulu connects to a series of drainage canals that eventually reaches the Peace River near Bartow.

The need to reduce the flow of pollutants from Lake Lulu, where one of Winter Haven’s sewer plants was once located, has been an issue for decades.

That sewer flow was mentioned in a 1953 scientific paper that discussed the contributions of pollution into the Peace River system from Polk County that affected red tide occurrences downstream in the Gulf of Mexico at a time when sewer discharges in Florida were largely unregulated.



Polk Environmental Lands Tax Will Not Be Cut

Questions about whether the Polk County Commission would cut the amount of taxes that would be levied to preserve land were answered Tuesday.

The majority of commissioners agreed during a budget work session not to cut the voter-approved tax of 20 cents per $1,000 of taxable value of real estate.

Commissioner Rick Wilson, who chairs the committee that will oversee spending the tax’s proceeds, said he would “fight (cuts) to the bitter end,” Commissioners Bill Braswell and George Lindsey agreed not to cut the tax, cementing a majority.

The discussion came after Marian Ryan, conservation chair for Ancient Islands Group of Florida Sierra, addressed commissioners at the beginning of Tuesday’s regular meeting.

She said although the county ordinance was indefinite about the exact tax rate, the ballot language was clear that the levy should be 0.2 of a mill.

During the budget work session county staffers said the tax will produce an estimated $11.3 million in the 2023-24 fiscal year.