Texas looks to California for ideas to battle West Nile

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by MONIKA DIAZ

WFAA

Posted on August 14, 2012 at 11:12 PM

Updated Wednesday, Aug 15 at 10:16 AM

The State of Texas told News 8 it has contacted Sacramento County and State of California officials to discuss aerial spraying.

In 2005, Sacramento County was the epicenter of a West Nile Virus outbreak. 

"We had very high infection rates of mosquito populations in an urban area, very similar to what you are seeing right now," said David Brown of Sacramento-Yolo County Mosquito and Vector Control.

In a Skype interview with News 8, Brown said the number of infected mosquitoes and the human cases in 2005 — 103 at the time of spraying — left them no choice but to launch an air attack after ground application had failed to control the problem.

With 207 human cases and 10 deaths so far in Dallas County, Brown said aerial spraying is now justified.

"I'm not going to judge whether it's a good idea or a bad idea for them, but I will say — based on the information that we are seeing — we think it would be prudent to control the adult mosquitoes so that you don't see more infected humans from West Nile virus," Brown said.

According to Brown, the aerial assault worked, and residents of the Central California city did not experience any adverse affects.

"We do know we've been able to break the transmission cycle with these treatments, and we will continue to do so when the conditions warrant," Brown said.

The agency continues to use aerial spraying as a preventive measure. On Tuesday, Sacramento-Yolo County Mosquito and Vector Control scheduled another round of aerial spraying.

"We are doing that because we don't want to wait for adult, for human infections," Brown said. "We want to try to prevent those."

Brown's advice to Dallas County and North Texas officials: Implement an e-mail notification system where people can sign up to receive information on West Nile and aerial spraying schedules.

In 2005, California officials relied on a massive outreach program and the media to spread the word. For Brown, the more information the better.

"Be open, be honest and let science guide you," he said. "There are a lot of misconceptions that will all of a sudden get legs and start being spread around. You want to make sure science guides you on this."

The State of California issued a report after the 2005 West Nile outbreak that determined aerial spraying is safe and effective.

Dr. Vicki Kramer, Chief of the Vector-borne Disease section of the California Department of Health Services told News 8 the benefits outweigh any risks.

Since 2005, Sacramento County officials upped their efforts to educate the public to reduce the risk of infection. They recommend cities in North Texas do the same.

"You really need to get the public involved so you don't get these conditions where you have a large adult mosquito population that's infected with the virus," Kramer said.

E-mail mdiaz@wfaa.com

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