Privacy getting in way of safety

Published 11:54 pm Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Notice to citizens, your neighborhood may have a potentially deadly infestation of disease-wielding mosquitoes, but the state cannot tell you for sure.

A spokesman for the Mississippi Department of Health said this week that they were unable to pinpoint the locations — or even the neighborhoods — where new cases of West Nile had been found.

The reason given for not being specific was a fear of federal privacy laws. The logic appears to be that pinpointing the neighborhood could — read that: could, not would — identify the victim.

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That’s among the craziest case of bureaucratic fear that we’ve seen.

Rather than being worried about the possibility of further outbreaks and an increased risk of infection, our state is essentially willing to allow more people to become infected by sheer ignorance of the problem.

One would think that providing specific location information would help raise awareness of the risk to a higher level. Knowing a case of West Nile broke out “somewhere” in Adams County is much less scary seeming than knowing that case was just down the street.

Granted, the truth is that if a mosquito in Morgantown likely has the disease, one would logically assume that almost all mosquitoes in the area might be infected, too. They do fly, you know.

But the entire matter raises some serious questions about whether or not bureaucracy has pushed out common sense in the office charged with protecting the health and wellness of our citizenry.

Have we gone so far in our society’s quest for keeping privacy front and center that we’re risking public health?

Unfortunately, it certainly looks that way.