Expanded West Nile Virus Prevention Plan in Dallas

An expanded West Nile virus prevention program is already underway in Dallas County to avoid another outbreak like this year's 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 disease is detected would then be treated earlier to kill infant mosquitoes before they fly or with ground spraying in targeted areas to kill adults.

"So I just want you to understand that this hasn't fallen on deaf ears. We're moving forward from historically the way we have attacked this," said County Commissioner John Wiley Price.

County officials explained the plan as a group of critics attacked the aerial spaying 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 called 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 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. It misses most of the adult mosquitoes and it misses all of the larvae," Garrett said.

Price opposed aerial spraying this summer and said he remains opposed to it.

"I'm still in favor of the ground assault in targeting how we deal with this particular issue," Price said.

County Judge Clay Jenkins made the decision to use aerial spraying over objections from Price and others.

Jenkins said he would do it again if necessary.

"That aerial spraying worked. 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," Jenkins said.

But officials hope the expanded prevention and monitoring program will 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 human cases in Dallas County at 388.

"West Nile season is still going on. In terms of the outbreak, we're not seeing significant cases but we're continuing our surveillance, year round," Health Director Zach Thompson said.

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