Ben Russell, NBC 5 News
Although the West Nile Virus season typically begins in May in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, health officials in the city of Plano are beginning their efforts to eradicate the problem a month early.
The city of Plano is starting its campaign against West Nile virus one month earlier than it did last year.
Last year, Plano recorded 28 West Nile virus cases in people, said Geoffrey Heinicke, environmental health manager. Of those cases, two deaths resulted.
"We're just starting a little bit earlier in response to last year," Heinicke said.
Crews have already applied larvicide to some areas. The city will start placing traps the same time it usually does, on May 1.
While the city did not allocate extra money in the budget for mosquito monitoring and prevention, it is trying a new strategy that Heinicke said would not cost "an extra cent."
"We're focusing on dead birds," he said, adding that a mosquito that feeds on an infected bird can then transmit the virus to the next human it bites.
Starting April 1, the city is asking citizens to report dead birds through its Fix It Plano app, which is available on smartphones and computers.
The city currently uses the app a way for citizens to send in maintenance or repair requests.
People can send in locations and pictures of the dead birds, allowing the city to track the precise location of an area that might need attention.
"If we get three or more dead birds within a one-mile area, we'll really look at that as a possible area for setting up mosquito traps," Heinicke said.
Those areas may also be treated with larvicide, he said.
The city will not pick up the birds or test them for West Nile virus.
Plano has maintained that spraying is not its first option, saying that larvicide in a targeted area offers "more bang for the buck."
The city is also planning mosquito information seminars. The first is on April 11.
NBC 5's Ben Russell contributed to this report.