West Nile watch underway in Dallas County

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by JANET ST. JAMES

WFAA

Posted on April 12, 2013 at 5:36 PM

DALLAS -- Dallas County's equipment is being tested so it's ready at a moment's notice for mosquito spraying.

After the unprecedented West Nile virus season of 2012, the county has revved up everything, from manpower, to equipment, to testing.

"We have significantly increased the amount of traps that we are deploying and collecting and testing," said Scott Sawlis, the mosquito control supervisor for Dallas County Health & Human Services. "And we're offering that service to our other municipalities -- up to five times as many traps in some of the municipalities."

Infected mosquitoes were detected in three different areas of Richardson this week, six weeks earlier than the first positives last year. Experts say the early confirmation means West Nile likely never left the area.

Detection last year sometimes took weeks for smaller cities, like Mesquite, that sent samples to the state laboratory. This year, Dallas County's lab is testing for about a dozen municipalities, with next-day results.

"This year, because it's done more locally, we have results faster," said Mesquite Senior Health Specialist Barry Jenkins. "Hopefully everybody in the county will react faster."

The hope is early detection will prompt a quick response to prevent West Nile from spreading early in the season. Aerial spraying could be avoided. Once spraying begins, mosquitoes will be monitored to see if they build up resistance to chemicals meant to kill them.

Dallas County health officials say residents right now need to protect themselves from mosquito bites by wearing insect repellent that contains DEET and by draining standing water from yards where mosquitoes will breed.

E-mail jstjames@wfaa.com

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