Mosquitos are more than just an annoyance to people in DFW. They can also make you very sick. The number of human cases of West Nile Virus has grown from just a few cases in mid-July to over hundreds of cases across North Texas in 2012. The CDC reported only 27 cases in the entire state of Texas in 2011. I guess we can blame it on more rainfall and cooler temperatures than last year.
Update: On August 9, Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins declared a public health emergency in Dallas County due to the West Nile virus epidemic in the area. On August 13, he urged area mayors to consider aerial spraying like Dallas County has started.
Human Cases of West Nile in North Texas in 2012 as of September 23, 2012:
Dallas County: 371 cases
Tarrant County: 234 cases
Denton County: 128. Denton County recorded 16 cases per 100,000 people compared to Dallas County's 11 per 100,000. Now Denton County is planning an aerial assault on the mosquitoes but the city of Denton is opting out. Most cases are in Flower Mound and in Lewisville, which agreed to aerial spraying along with Haslet, Southlake, Roanoke, Pilot Point, Sanger and Trophy Club.
Collin County: 49 cases
West Nile Deaths in DFW
Deaths in Dallas County: 16
Deaths in Tarrant County: 5
Deaths in Denton County: 2
Deaths in Collin County: 1
Deaths in Ellis County: 1
Right now, Fort Worth is only using targeted ground spraying. Dallas County has resorted to aerial spraying for the mosquitos. So don't be surprised if you see low-flying aircraft. The planes spraying DFW may fly at around 300 feet.
August 23, 2012 Update
Planes are spraying seven cities across Dallas County. A team from the Centers for Disease Control are in town to see if the aerial and ground spraying tactics are working. Approximately 650 human cases of West Nile have been reported.
Denton County has the highest case-to-population ratio in the state with 118 cases and one death so far. Aerial spraying in Denton County is a hot topic right now. Cities in Denton County have until noon Tuesday to decide whether to opt in or opt out of aerial spraying. A number of cities, including Denton and Frisco, will not agree to aerial spraying.
August 27 Update
According to the CDC, aerial spraying seems to be effective in Dallas County. There are fewer mosquitoes carrying West Nile Virus.
August 30 Upate
The CDC reported that aerial spraying has been successful. The number of West Nile mosquitoes reduced by 93% in parts of Dallas County that received 2 consequitive nights of spraying. Mosquitoes increased in areas that were not sprayed.
September 10 Update
Spray trucks are still working in parts of Fort Worth and Frisco. It's now been reported that 28 North Texans have died and 900 have become ill with West Nile Virus. It was also revealed that Dallas County is not testing dead birds to see if they carry the virus. No larvacide was purchased in 2010 or 2011. Maybe after the serious outbreak of 2012, then Metroplex will make a proactive plan to curb West Nile in the future. Other cities, like Houston, invests a lot more in appropriate protection.
A West Nile Virus support group is meeting at Medical City of Dallas.
When Do You Ask for a West Nile Virus Test
Ask for a test if you have fever, headache, unusual neck stiffness or body aches. The more serious case of West Nile Virus can cause disorientation, stupor, tremors, convulsions and muscle weakness.
What Can I Do to Prevent West Nile Virus?
Being outside means you're at risk. The easiest and best way to avoid West Nile Virus is to prevent mosquito bites. Here are some suggestions from the Center for Disease Control:
- When you are outdoors, use insect repellent containing an EPA-registered active ingredient. Follow the directions on the package.
- Many mosquitoes are most active at dusk and dawn. Be sure to use insect repellent and wear long sleeves and pants at these times or consider staying indoors during these hours.
- Make sure you have good screens on your windows and doors to keep mosquitoes out.
- Get rid of mosquito breeding sites by emptying standing water from flower pots, buckets and barrels.
- Change the water in pet dishes regularly and replace the water in bird baths weekly. Drill holes in tire swings so water drains out.
- Keep children's wading pools empty and on their sides when they aren't being used.
Protect Your Dogs Too
Dogs should be on heartworm protection year-round. When an infected dog is bitten by a mosquito, the blood that is withdrawn can contain heartworm offspring. When the mosquito bites a second dog, the offspring are passed on. Talk to your vet about heartworm prevention.
The temps in DFW aren't helping matters either. Temperatures are starting to climb and feel like the long, hot record-breaking summer of 2011.
To receive a text alert when aerial spraying starts in neighborhood, text the word "spray" to 48411.
Insect Repellant on School Campuses
Some DFW schools will allow insect repellant on campus. Plano, Garland and Arlington say to apply spray at home. Highland Park and FW students can bring it to school. In Carrollton and Desoto, parents can send it (with a note) to the school nurse and they will administer it. In Denton, spray is allowed but the school is not responsible for applying it to children.