By Chris Kramer
Probably not. But it's a little scary (in the same way the movie Jurassic Park was) to see how the unanticipated side-effects of massive foreclosures in the United States could affect the American people.
Since the burst of the housing bubble a couple years ago, homeowners in the United States have seen the tightening of credit, the decline of property values and even the emergence of Hooverville-esque tent villages to house the newest batch of homeless people - those whose adjustable rate mortgages became too expensive and who saw their homes repossessed by the bank.
And reports from across the nation suggest that we've only seen the beginning of this housing crisis and its impact.
The Fairfax Times of Virginia reports that the climbing rates of foreclosure in the area, combined with the climbing temperatures of spring and summer, could lead to a whole new health risk: West Nile Virus.
But wait, you're thinking, West Nile Virus comes from infected mosquitoes, not from abandoned homes! And you're right. West Nile Virus is a potentially fatal disease that can be transmitted to humans through mosquito bites. But there's more to the story than that.
Because of record high rates of foreclosures and abandoned properties in many areas of the country, many houses and yards are sitting vacant. Some of those houses have overflowing drainpipes. Some of those yards have birdbaths and swimming pools. Some just have large tarps from unfinished construction work. All of them could pose a threat to public health, and while bankruptcy may stop foreclosure, it won't stop mosquitoes.
According to sources, mosquitoes breed in still water. That means that any collection of water that hasn't been stirred up in a while (such as abandoned pools, puddles from drainpipes, etc.) is the potential breeding ground for pests with West Nile Virus. Yikes.
According to an ABC News affiliate, police in Santa Clara County, California have taken to the air to combat the threat of infected mosquitoes. Officers are apparently flying over the county in planes equipped with GPS systems and digital cameras in order to identify pools that could serve as breeding grounds for mosquitoes.
In Santa Clara County alone, 150 homes with pools are currently in foreclosure. But authorities are evidently worried that even those still managing to make payments may let their pools go - if money for the mortgage is tight, families are likely to skimp on luxuries like pool maintenance.
But unattended pools constitute a public health risk, and those who have let their watering holes go to seed could reportedly face a fine up to $1,000 a day. Sources indicate that the county also has other plans for problem pools, including adding mosquito-eating fish to the mix and requesting permission from banks to drain the pools of vacant properties.
Police are encouraging neighbors of abandoned pools to speak up - taking care of the problem early can prevent disease and even death down the road.
And even if a nearby vacant property has no pool, keep track of the length of grass in the lawn. Officials warn that long grass can be a prime area for Lyme Disease-carrying ticks to fatten themselves while they await their human prey.
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