DALLAS - Dallas County is recommending aerial spraying in certain portions of the county to prevent the spread of West Nile virus.
North Dallas, Highland Park and University Park could be sprayed. That is where most of the West Nile cases have been in the county. Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings said he concurred with the county's decision in a news release. Then Highland Park and University Park held a joint news conference late Friday night announcing they also agree.
University Park spokesman Steve Mace said both cities "support for aerial spraying as the best method to knock down the cases of West Nile virus and the infestation of mosquitoes."
The mayors of both Highland Park and University Park also contacted their respective councils and said there appeared to be no immediate concern from any elected officials. Council action is not needed for the spraying to begin.
Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins said the ultimate decision was with the mayors, but said in an earlier news conference if it were up to him, the planes would be used.
Jenkins said the research he's read said aerial spraying of insecticide is the best way to combat West Nile virus.
"We're going to follow the science and do whatever we need to do to ensure the safest outcome for our people," Jenkins said.
State health officials want to reassure the public about the safety of the aerial insecticide.
"This is the same chemical that you have in ground spraying," said State Health Commissioner Dr. David Lakey. "When you look at the data from other cities that have done aerial spraying, it is our feeling that aerial spraying is safe."
At least one group is opposed to the plan.
Jenny Land of "Concerned Citizens for Safer Mosquito Control" helped write the City of Dallas's mosquito plan about a decade ago. It did not include aerial spraying. And she's opposed to it now.
"I'm afraid of it," she said. "It's disconcerting that they are taking this very risky approach."
Jenkins and Lakey disagree.
"There is a concern with spraying on the part of some, that pesticides will affect the honeybee population, it might make them sick, that pesticides are very bad and this is indiscriminate," Jenkins said. "And I respect that, and I've read hundreds of pages of e-mails and responded to each one of them from citizens over the last three days. But the cost of not taking an aggressive approach against this disease has already claimed nine lives [in Dallas County] and greatly sickened, probably so they'll have lifetime repercussions, 172 people [in Dallas County.]"
The planes will likely arrive in Dallas mid- to late-next week. State emergency funds will cover the cost.
In the meantime, stepped up ground spraying is going to begin on Monday. Mosquito traps will also be tested to make sure their population are diminishing, and they are not building resistance to the pesticides.