It is that time of year again, when the fight against the West Nile virus kicks into gear.
On Tuesday, the Fort Worth City Council was briefed on the city's 2014 plan, which features some small additions to the 2013 plan.
The city will continue its surveillance program of mosquitoes at its 42 fire stations. But the code compliance department will increase the amount of trapping it does at some popular area parks, like the Fort Worth Botanic Garden, Fort Worth Nature Center and Refuge and the Fort Worth Zoo.
The department also plans to create a "Citizen Participatory WNV Vector Control Program," per its presentation during the pre-council meeting on Tuesday.
The Nature Center averages 50,000 visitor a year, the Botanic Garden around 70,000 and the goal of the extra monitoring is both public safety and science related.
"So that we can continue to work toward having a predictability model for West Nile virus," said Code Compliance Director Brandon Bennett. "That's one of the things that everybody lacks at this point is, it (the West Nile season) going to be bad? Is it going to be average? Who knows?"
The UNT Health Sciences Center will be working on the data collected at the parks and elsewhere to help develop that possible model.
Last year the virus saw a major drop off from 2012. In 2013, Fort Worth had only six human cases of the virus and one fatality. A year earlier 81 people were sickened and four people died. The number of positive mosquito pools also were on the decline, with 15 in 2012 and just five in 2013. It should be noted though that testing did not take place across the whole season in 2012.
"We just have to stay on course, stay focused and not allow these slower years to get us off track," Bennett said.
The West Nile virus plan calls for canvassing of neighborhoods and assessing environmental exposure concerns when a positive human case is found.
The city also assesses environmental risks when positive mosquito pool samples are found. The city also responds to citizens’ calls for concerns.
Bennett said his department is prepared to go door-to-door if needed again this year.
The city started trapping at various parks in mid-June in 2013, but will now do so year round at the Nature Center, Botanic Garden, Acadia Park, Gateway Park, Cobb Park and Rolling Hills Park.
During the testing in 2013 in the parks there were no positive mosquito pools found in the 49 samples tested.
If positive mosquito pools are found in the parks, city staff will work to mitigate the hazards. That includes finding the source of the mosquitoes and using larvicide and larvae eating fish to combat the mosquitoes.
The best way to fight the virus the city said is through protecting yourself with the four D’s, Deet, Dress in long sleeves, stay indoors at Dusk and Dawn and Drain standing water. There is also the 5x5 program, where you check your home and five others around your neighborhood to make sure there are no mosquito pools.
The Tarrant County Public Health Department is also modifying its plan this year, but only slightly. Surveillance is year round for the county but on April 1, the seasonal surveillance program kicked off which features dozens of traps around the county in various cities.
One change this year is that the county health department will no longer call for spraying of nuisance mosquitoes. Last year the county would spray in spots due to a high abundance of mosquitoes in certain areas.
"Spraying will only be done in response to a positive mosquito sample," said Dr. Anita Kurian, assistant director of the Tarrant County Public Health Department.