The local battle against West Nile virus is starting early this year, following the deadliest season ever in 2012.
Tuesday morning, Dallas County Health Department Director Zachary Thompson updated commissioners on the county’s attack plan.
This year, the county is focused on finding infected mosquitoes early and eliminating them before they can spread the virus.
Thompson said Senate Bill 186, just approved by Gov. Rick Perry, will also help. The bill allows code enforcement officers to quickly access abandoned and foreclosed properties to clean up standing water and pools where mosquitoes are breeding.
Dallas County became the epicenter for the outbreak in 2012 with the most people infected in the country: 371 cases and 20 deaths. The county doesn’t want a repeat of last year after controversy surrounded its decision for delayed aerial spraying.
Local mosquitoes have already tested positive for the virus. Richardson, Highland Park, Flower Mound, and Lewisville already started ground spraying after mosquitoes tested positive.
The city of Dallas is also taking action and tripling its traps.
Joey Zapata, Dallas assistant city manager, talked at a meeting at City Hall about the measures the city is taking to fight the virus.
"The mood is that this is a manageable virus that we're going to have around us for a while," he said.
Zapata told council members that the city started doing "off-season" mosquito trapping and testing for the virus back in December. In the peak of West Nile virus season, the city will deploy 90 traps, up from the 30 used in the past.
Zapata also noted that the city now has an extra truck to use in the ground spraying of chemicals to kill mosquitoes. Ground spraying is only used in an area after a test comes back positive for the virus.
The use of mosquito dunks got plenty of attention from council members. Dunks are dropped in pools of water to kill mosquito larvae.
In the past, Dallas did not give out dunk to residents. This year, the city plan to give away 46,000 dunks to fight the spread of the virus.
"It's a lesson that we learned from last year," Zapata said. "It's just to make it important, make it a first, critical step to making sure that we're addressing breeding mosquitoes."
Starting next month, Dallas residents can also expect to hear and see plenty of radio and TV ads talking about fighting West Nile virus.
People are urged to do their part to defend against West Nile virus with the three D’s:
- DEET: Use insect repellents that contain DEET.
- Drain: Remove all areas of standing water. Change water in wading pools, pet dishes and birdbaths several times per week.
- Dress: Avoid mosquito bites by wearing long, loose and light-colored clothing outside during dusk and dawn hours.
NBC 5's Omar Villafranca contributed to this report.