Fort Worth expands West Nile response, ground spraying Wednesday



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Posted on August 14, 2012 at 12:26 PM

Updated Tuesday, Aug 14 at 6:15 PM

FORT WORTH - Most cities in Dallas County spray for mosquitoes to combat West Nile virus. Only a half-dozen Tarrant County cities have been spraying.

Until now.

For the first time in 20 years, Fort Worth will target certain neighborhoods that show a high level of West Nile cases, or a high concentration of mosquitoes that test positive for the virus. Ground spraying will begin Wednesday night.

City leaders say every resident is now at risk, because the 45 cases now reported city-wide include every ZIP code.

"We put out traps this past weekend," said Fort Worth Director of Code Compliance Brandon Bennett. "We'll get data back from those traps late tomorrow."

He said foggers will saturate the same streets over and over to kill adult mosquitoes.

"Fogging from a truck, and it would drive the same neighborhoods three nights in row," Bennett said.

He said Fort Worth will hire contractors to fog, because it requires licensed applicators.

Tuesday, code inspectors began knocking on doors and asked residents to take part in the "5 x 5" program. It urges homeowners to get rid of any puddles of water in their yards, while also urging five neighbors who live on each side to do the same.

Fort Worth also issued a city-wide reverse-911 call Tuesday, advising residents of the West Nile threat. The message encourages residents to take precautions to prevent getting West Nile.

City officials say the decision to fog came after a recommendation from the Tarrant County Health Department.

Tarrant County Health Department Director Lou Brewer briefed county commissioners Tuesday morning.

"We are still emphasizing prevention," Brewer said.

She said the overwhelming number of existing West Nile victims were not using repellent. The health department recommends using repellent with at least 20 percent DEET.

She said two-thirds of the cases in Tarrant County have been the milder variety with fever, and not neuro-invasive.

At this point, Brewer said aerial spraying is not the best weapon. But she said that could change if cities start to say they are getting overwhelmed, if can't keep up with education and larviciding, and if they've tried ground spraying.

Fort Worth plans to hold a public meeting Wednesday to explain when and where the spraying will take place. Brandon Bennett said the spray is toxic to honeybees, but that it will be used in low concentrations, and only at times when bees are not active.