Dallas Co. Approves Expanded West Nile Program

Dallas County Commissioners Court on Tuesday approved a $350,000 contract to add outside help with the war on mosquitoes infected with West Nile Virus.

The contract with Vector Disease Control International of Little Rock, Ark., would provide 24 additional mosquito traps each week and mosquito spraying services for 5,000 miles each year.

These services would be included on top of the efforts Dallas County Health and Human Services did in the summer of 2012 – which included new brochures to launch an earlier public education campaign about West Nile Virus prevention.

"If you take 2012, a once in a 50-year episode, that is causing everyone to relook at their programs, considering we don't want a repeat of last year," Dallas County Health Director Zach Thompson said.

Dallas County reported 398 human cases of West Nile Virus last summer, resulting in 19 deaths.

The outbreak came after several years with very little West Nile Virus detected in North Texas.

"If you take the totality of 2002 to 2011, there probably wouldn't have been a need to add additional spraying application. Right now, based on what we experienced in 2012, we'd rather be in overkill mode, we'd rather add additional ground application," Thompson said.

County Commissioner Elba Garcia praised the health department’s plans for improvements from last year’s response when the plan was in discussion last week.

“I believe part of what happened was the lack of coordination, the lack of funding, we got too comfortable, all the way around, and that’s what we’re taking care of today,” Garcia said. “We’re putting the funds where we needed to for a coordinated effort.”

Dallas County is responsible for mosquito control in 14 smaller cities and the unincorporated area of the county, but not the city of Dallas.

City of Dallas Mosquito Control Plans

Larger cities within the county provide their own mosquito control.

The city of Dallas announced an expanded plan for 90 mosquito traps during the peak season, three times more than the city used last year. Plus, the city of Dallas intends to receive lab testing of samples in half the time and expand public education.

Dallas County Health Director Zach Thompson said the city of Dallas should also hire an outside vendor to provide even more protection than what the new city plan includes.

“We recommended the 90 traps,” said Thompson. “That was our recommendation based on our review. And that’s why we’re still saying we think there needs to be an additional vendor brought in to even ramp that up higher. 90 was our minimum number.”

County Commissioner John Wiley Price serves on the committee that coordinates public health issues between the county and cities.

Price agreed with Thompson.

“The 90 traps, most of us on public health don’t think that’s sufficient,” Price said. “But that’s going to be incumbent on that city to make that determination.”

County Judge Clay Jenkins had no complaint about the city of Dallas plan and said mosquito control for the coming summer is still a work in progress.

“But the important thing is we’re all going to communicate together, we’re all going to work together, with one goal and that is to keep you and your family safe,” Jenkins said.

NBC 5's Scott Friedman, Ken Kalthoff, and Kendra Lyn contributed to this report.

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