Chris Van Horne, NBC 5 Fort Worth Reporter
The battle against West Nile virus carrying mosquitos isn't over in Fort Worth but targeted ground spraying is for now.
In Fort Worth the battle against the West Nile Virus isn't over, but targeted ground spraying is, at least for now.
Tarrant County Public Health reports seeing a slowing of human cases and positive mosquitoes in recent weeks, but can't say with any certainty what the exact cause is.
The City of Fort Worth's West Nile "war room," so to speak, is full of maps, dates and data but few people on Tuesday.
After three rounds of targeted ground spraying, just south of downtown and in two locations in north Fort Worth, and a significant public outreach campaign, Code Compliance Director Brandon Bennett says the city is cautiously optimistic they're past the peak of the West Nile outbreak.
"Cautiously optimistic, certainly, but are we out of the woods yet, absolutely not," Bennett said.
He compares the current situation to a severe weather warning, the difference being a warning and a watch.
"We're more in line with the watch," Bennett said. "That is, that conditions could develop rather quickly which would lead us to believe that we need to spray."
The city is still collecting mosquito samples and waiting on test results, but after more than 50 human cases last month, the numbers are slowing
"There's no case today and even the cases that do come in, there's no pattern to it," Bennett said "Because we do targeted ground spraying, we need a good target to spray and we don't have that right now."
Public Health has also noticed the drop off of human cases and positive mosquito pools in recent weeks.
"We've seen the number of positive mosquito samples falling off tremendously to where we're only getting one or two positives out of 30 samples," David Jefferson, environmental health manager said. "That's great."
Jefferson says the number of West Nile cases typically falls off in late August. But whether the recent drop-off is related to seasonal changes, spraying efforts, the actions of individuals or all of the above, doesn't mean anyone should lower their guard from the virus.
"We're still just being cautiously optimistic that it's dropping now," Jefferson said.
Personal protection methods, like following the Four D's, are still the best way to prevent the disease. Bennett says early data shows a majority of those infected didn't protect themselves.
"Three-quarters of the victims did not use Deet this summer," Bennett said.
City and county leaders say the closer to late fall and early winter we get, the better they'll feel about the status of the disease in the community. Jefferson says once temperatures hit the 40s the mosquito population will go away.
As for any lessons from this year's outbreak and whether they can be used to predict the future, Jefferson says they won't have a full set of data until late November at the earliest. But it's too soon to say if that data will help predict future outbreaks or not.