DENTON — Aerial spraying for the mosquitoes that spread West Nile virus will begin no sooner than next Thursday in Denton County. Cities have until Tuesday to decide whether to opt in or out.
The Flower Mound Town Council voted unanimously Thursday night to approve aerial spraying, just hours after two new West Nile cases were revealed in that community
The Little Elm Town Council also met in emergency session Thursday evening, but took no action on the issue. There have been no West Nile cases reported in Little Elm, one of the few Denton County communities untouched by the epidemic so far.
"Based on the effectiveness of our current mosquito control program, we feel that aerial spraying is not warranted at this time," Mayor David Hillock told News 8.
Pilot Point also voted to OK the spraying during an emergency meeting Wednesday. There has been one human case of West Nile there.
County officials addressed the media during an afternoon news conference at the Denton County Courthouse Thursday. Health Department director Bing Burton said there are “six to seven” new human cases of the West Nile Virus each day in the county, which is what prompted Judge Mary Horn to sign a disaster declaration on Wednesday.
“Dallas County and Tarrant County both have more cases than we have, but they have much larger populations,” Burton said. “We have 112 cases of West Nile Virus in Denton County; that is the highest incidence rate in the state, and it might well be the highest in the nation.”
Burton announced one new case in Denton, two in Flower Mound, one in Highland Village, one in Lewisville and one in Trophy Club. Without taking those new cases into account, Burton said the county currently has 16.3 human cases of West Nile per 100,000 residents.
Denton now joins Dallas County as the first in North Texas to decide to ask the Department of State Health Services for aerial spraying. But officials recognize that the makeup in Denton is quite different than its southern neighbor.
There’s less urbanization in Denton County, for one, and more agricultural areas. Emergency Management Coordinator Jody Gonzalez said he met with county department heads Thursday morning, which included representatives from the Texas AgriLife Extension Service.
Gonzalez said they were comfortable with the safety of the spraying plan, and extended their support of the county’s decision. Centers for Disease Control experts have said the pesticide used in the spraying is safe for pets and humans.
“Those AG Extension offices and the AgriLife Department of Denton County will be contacting their partners,” he said.
Farmers or ranchers with land in unincorporated portions of the county will not be able to opt out, he added.
Now it’s decision time for cities in Denton County, Horn said. She warned those that decline the spraying will likely not have the chance to double-back and opt in, such as six Dallas County cities did during spraying there.
The thunderstorms that postponed the process in Dallas County aren’t showing on the forecast in Denton. Horn doesn’t expect the same slowdown –– it’s now or never.
“I think we’d be remiss if we weren’t proactive to try and get ahead of this situation,” she said. “This is something to be taken very seriously and I certainly hope our proactive approach will lessen the impact to the citizens of Denton County.”
The planes will take off from Denton Municipal Airport between 9 p.m. and 2 a.m. Clarke, the same contractor used by Dallas County, will also be used in Denton County, Horn said.