An expanded West Nile virus prevention program is already under way in Dallas County to avoid another outbreak like the one this year, county officials said Tuesday.
The plan includes year-round monitoring of the mosquito population instead of just during peak season, nearly four times as many mosquito traps and more local testing of samples to more quickly detect the disease instead of waiting for state test results.
Areas where the disease is detected would then be treated earlier to kill infant mosquitoes before they fly or to kill adults with ground spraying in targeted areas.
"So I just want you to understand that this hasn't fallen on deaf ears," County Commissioner John Wiley Price said. "We're moving forward from historically the way we have attacked this."
County officials explained the plan as a group of critics attacked the aerial spraying that was done this year to combat the disease.
Nearly two dozen people signed up to speak on the issue at Tuesday’s Dallas County Commissioners Court meeting.
Members of the group Citizens for Safer Mosquito Control claim there were health consequences to bees and people from the aerial spraying that officials have not acknowledged.
"I myself was treated in the Austin emergency room for exposure to the spray residue that led to rash over my body, respiratory symptoms, nausea and vomiting," group member Jennifer Land said.
Howard Garrett, who calls himself the "Dirt Doctor," said other ways of controlling mosquitoes are available and that aerial spraying is ineffective.
"Aerial spraying of pesticides just simply doesn't work, and I think it's a big waste of time and money," he said. "It misses most of the adult mosquitoes, and it misses all of the larvae."
Price, who opposed aerial spraying this summer, said he remains opposed to it.
"I'm still in favor of the ground assault in targeting how we deal with this particular issue," he said.
County Judge Clay Jenkins, who made the decision to use aerial spraying over objections from Price and others, said he would do it again if necessary.
"That aerial spraying worked," he said. "It's extremely effective. It saved lives. There is no scientific evidence whatsoever that it resulted in any harm to citizens in Dallas County or to animals or to bees."
But officials said they hope the expanded prevention and monitoring program would make aerial spraying unnecessary in the future.
"We all agree that the best way to kill these mosquitoes is to monitor, to know where the pools, the positive mosquitoes are, and to kill the mosquitoes in their larvae state," Jenkins said.
A Dallas County Health Department website lists the current count of West Nile virus human cases in Dallas County at 388.
"West Nile season is still going on," said Zach Thompson, county health director. "In terms of the outbreak, we're not seeing significant cases, but we're continuing our surveillance, year round."