Dallas County health director looks to ease state restrictions in West Nile battle

Zachary Thompson

Credit: WFAA

Dallas County Health and Human Services director Zachary Thompson offers an update on the West Nile virus outbreak.




Posted on September 19, 2012 at 5:25 PM

Updated Wednesday, Sep 19 at 6:23 PM

DALLAS – In Carrollton, the Environmental Services Unit can use a search warrant to clean up abandoned and neglected pools, which are troublesome sources of mosquito breeding.

But not every city can do that.  

"Cities should be able to go on a vacant property that has been foreclosed on and take the appropriate action to eliminate mosquitoes breeding on that property," says Dallas County Health and Human Services Director Zachary Thompson. "So if that's not a part of the state law, then we need to insert it."

Thompson says he's looking at possible changes to state laws so residents can be protected from mosquito carried illnesses no matter where they live. In Dallas County, there have been 364 human cases of the West Nile virus. Tarrant has seen 259, Denton stands at 164 and Collin has 73.

Counties are also making plans for how they will attack West Nile season.

Nearly a month after planes blanketed Dallas County with pesticide, health officials are reporting serious progress in the war on the virus.

The number of people infected by it is steadily dropping. Traps are still set across North Texas and brought into labs daily for analysis.

In Tarrant County, only four pools have test positive since September 4.  In Dallas County, no mosquitos have tested positive for West Nile in two weeks.

"And so that's good news," says Thompson, who credits a combination approach to fighting it. "But aerial spraying was very effective. Ground spraying was effective.  And the fact that Dallas County residents got the message about the importance of protecting themselves."

Mosquitos also apparently go into hiding in cooler temperatures. Earlier nightfall means they also have less time to feed on people.  

But experts caution the West Nile danger is not gone and if temperatures rise again, so might West Nile virus. And so, here’s the four D’s experts say to follow to avoid being bit by a mosquito, posted verbatim from Dallas County: 

  1. Use insect repellent containing DEET, picaridin or oil of lemon eucalyptus.
  2. Dress in long sleeves and long pants when you are outside.
  3. Stay indoors at dusk and dawn, when mosquitoes are most active.
  4. Drain standing water where mosquitoes breed. Common breeding sites include old tires, flowerpots and clogged rain gutters.

E-mail jstjames@wfaa.com