It turns out that an unintended side effect of the subprime mortgage crisis currently engulfing America could be a rise in cases of West Nile virus and other mosquito-borne illnesses. Here's the logic: The number of people who can't pay their mortgages is on the rise, leading to a sharp increase in the number of foreclosed homes. The real estate market is flat, so those bank-owned properties are languishing, unsold, for long periods of time. Now, consider the case of Phoenix, Arizona, where the land is literally a desert and people have responded to this by creating their own tolerable microclimates, namely houses with swimming pools.
There are tens of thousands of swimming pools in Maricopa County, Arizona, which has one of the highest foreclosure rates in the entire country. Foreclosed houses with swimming pools become foreclosed houses with stagnant, algae-filled mosquito breeding grounds, and more mosquitoes means more mosquito-borne illnesses like West Nile Virus.
Still with me? Mosquitoes have become a real problem in Arizona, such that officials in Maricopa County have started a breeding program for mosquitofish (Gambusia affinis), and as reported by Yahoo! News, have started offering them for release in order to control the mosquitoes. Mosquitofish are themselves considered an invasive species in several parts of the world, and while native to the southern USA and Mexico, are not native to Arizona, where their introduction is thought to have impacted several native fish species. Let's hope the fish stay in those swimming pools.