West Nile spraying begins in unincorporated Tarrant County

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by JANET ST. JAMES

WFAA

Posted on September 11, 2012 at 4:33 PM

Updated Tuesday, Sep 11 at 5:28 PM

FORT WORTH — For weeks, Tarrant County Commissioners have questioned why more isn't being done to control West Nile virus in their area.

"It would seem that we need to be in there doing something," said commissioner Roy Brooks at a recent meeting.

Now, the county is performing five nights of ground spraying to combat disease-carrying mosquitoes in unincorporated areas, starting in the northwestern quadrant and moving along the western edge to the south [VIEW MAP]. 

It began on Monday evening, hours before Tarrant County Public Health announced a sixth person diagnosed with West Nile had died. Dallas County announced the 15th West Nile-related death on Monday in Grand Prairie, near the Tarrant County border. The victim was a man in his 60s who lived in the 75052 zip code.

Overall, cases of West Nile in Tarrant County have been consistently dropping. As of Tuesday, there were 252 cases and six deaths.

"Earlier this year," says environmental health manager David Jefferson of mosquito surveillance, "We were seeing one out of three, maybe 35 percent positives. We're now seeing one out of 30 pools coming back positive."

The county's own tracking indicates just one positive mosquito trap in those far outskirts being targeted. There have been no documented cases in people in those areas.

News 8 asked Jefferson why the county would choose to spray mostly unaffected areas now.

"There's been a lot of citizen concern," explains David Jefferson, "The citizens have made the request, and we're responding to their request."

To battle West Nile, Dallas County declared an emergency, which allowed the state to pick up the expense of spraying.

At one point, 20 trucks, along with four airplanes, blanketed Dallas County with pesticide.

Tarrant County has just one ground-spraying unit.

Even now, as West Nile cases are dropping, the county is considering hiring a contractor to add as many as three more trucks, at local taxpayer expense.

Some question whether the efforts are a waste of taxpayer dollars.

"The citizens have asked us to do it," responds Jefferson, "And the citizens are the taxpayers, therefore we respond to the citizens request."

The landscape of Tarrant County is different than Dallas County, Jefferson says, with less ground cover. Experts say that contributed to a different approach to combating mosquitos in the county.

But the county says this has been a learning experience and next year may be different.

"We need it really badly," says resident Angel Miskie. "Because the mosquitoes are really bad in the back yard and in the front."

Angel Miskie says she will welcome a truck on her street, better late than never. 

Email jstjames@wfaa.com

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