Confusion surrounds efforts to combat West Nile virus

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by STEVE STOLER

WFAA

Posted on July 30, 2012 at 6:25 PM

Updated Monday, Jul 30 at 8:11 PM

DALLAS — The West Nile virus epidemic has many North Texans asking why their city or town isn't spraying; why they aren't spraying in every neighborhood; and why some cities have alert levels and others do not.

The differences in city and county responses have left some residents confused.

Dallas has an alert system, as does the City of Denton. Both are at level five, indicating the possibility of people contracting West Nile is "high."

The next step for Dallas — level six — includes the prospect of aerial spraying, which hasn't happened in 46 years.

"We're talking about chemicals," said Dallas County Health and Human Services director Zach Thompson. "You really have to look at an urban area, and whether or not aerial spraying would be a benefit."

Dallas County is working closely with its cities. They talk at least once a week. The county provides ground-level spraying in nine of those towns.

Denton County doesn't do any spraying; each city has its own mosquito control program.

"Policies are going to differ from city to city, in terms of what's effective," said Denton County Health Director Dr. Bing Burton. "The science is just not unanimous as to what approach should be taken."

Thompson would like to see a more comprehensive effort to battle West Nile virus. But in general, the counties and cities are on their own in how they attack the source of the disease.

Thompson said counties and cities could use help from the state and federal government.

"You have different variations of what a plan should look like," Thompson said. "So we need recommendations from the CDC and the state health department in terms of a coordinated plan that will work to address West Nile virus."

Most mosquito control programs in North Texas focus on education and local target spraying. Right now, aerial spraying is unlikely to happen.

Officials with DCHHS continue to encourage residents to practice the "four D's":

  • Use insect repellents that contain DEET
  • Drain any standing water
  • Dress in long, loose and light-colored clothing
  • Take extra care to use repellent and protective clothing from dusk to dawn

E-mail sstoler@wfaa.com

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