8 more Dallas County cities to spray; Mayor says Dallas is done

8 more Dallas County cities to spray; Mayor says Dallas is done

Credit: WFAA

Facing a deadline, cities across North Texas scrambled Wednesday to make the difficult and controversial decision of whether to allow aerial mosquito spraying to fight the West Nile virus. Facing environmental and health outcries, a dozen cities across Dallas County decided the benefits outweighed the risks and agreed to allow for the first time in nearly 50 years planes to drop insecticide across their neighborhoods.

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by MATT GOODMAN

WFAA

Posted on August 21, 2012 at 4:10 PM

Updated Tuesday, Aug 21 at 6:02 PM

DALLAS –– Another victim has died from the West Nile Virus in Dallas County, marking the eleventh fatality there this summer.

Dallas County Health and Human Services director Zachary Thompson said a woman in her 80s living in the 75225 ZIP code was diagnosed with a neuroinvasive disease from West Nile and died. He says the woman also had underlying medical issues.

The 75225 ZIP code in University Park encompasses about a five-square-mile swath extending north from Lovers Ln. to Walnut Hill Ln. sandwiched between U.S. 75 and the Dallas North Tollway. 

The county’s fourth and fifth victims to die from the disease also lived in the same area code, county records show. 

So far, there have been 270 human cases of West Nile in Dallas County and more than 600 in the Dallas/Fort Worth Area. The county's website keeps an ongoing log of where the positive cases have been found along with areas that have had mosquito pools test positive for West Nile. 

On August 15, Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings signed a declaration of emergency because of the high amount of cases. Aerial spraying began Thursday, but inclement weather slowed the spray schedule. Planes equipped with the pesticide Duet made a second round on Monday night to kill any mosquitoes that cropped up after the initial dousing. 

Roughly 362,000 acres of northern Dallas County received a second coating of pesticide by plane Monday night. Rawlings said the city will not schedule a third night of aerial spraying at this point.

"It's showing aerial spraying is working ... with no visible side effects," he said. "We are excited about that news." 

On Tuesday, the southern sector cities of Duncanville, Ferris, Rowlett, Sunnyvale, Seagoville, Wilmer and portions of Mesquite south of Interstate 30 all signed on for aerial spraying. Combine also opted in if aerial gridding can reach the city. 

Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins said officials were awaiting word from Balch Springs, Cedar Hill, Cockrell Hill and Lancaster regarding whether they will opt in or join Glenn Heights, Hutchins, DeSoto and Irving in declining the aerial spraying. 

In an afternoon press conference, Jenkins said President Barack Obama was briefed by the Centers for Disease Control regarding the West Nile outbreak. 

"That just goes to show that this is a serious matter that the president requested and the CDC provided a briefing," Jenkins said. 

County officials said CDC representatives will arrive in Dallas "Wednesday evening to start Thursday morning" and begin analyzing results from mosquito traps in cities that participated in aerial spraying.

Rawlings read reporters an email from the CDC saying, "preliminary data from the pre-post spray mosquito trappings suggested that the mosquito population abundance decreased considerably after the operation." 

Rawlings said the next 10 to 14 days will be spent deploying pesticide to targeted areas and collecting more data throughout the city and the county. The CDC will then take the data and analyze it. 

"It needs to be that amount of time before we know if we've got a new outbreak," Rawlings said. 

Mosquitoes breed every five to seven days and lay between 200 and 300 eggs at a time. 

Since spraying began last Thursday, the North Texas Poison Center has received hundreds of calls. Most of these are asking for information only; only 10 calls have been from people exposed to pesticide. 

"We have not had anybody that we know of that has had serious problems," said Center manager Melody Gardner. "We have had some people who have called complaining of respiratory issues; we sent them to their physician and we have not heard back from them afterwards." 

At a 2 p.m. news conference, officials within the Dallas Police Department, the City Marshal's Office, Dallas Fire Rescue and the city's Code Compliance Department urged residents to be more active in getting rid of standing water and notifying the city if further action is necessary. 

The county reminds residents to use insect repellants containing DEET, get rid of any standing water on your property, dress in "long, loose and light-colored clothing," especially when outdoors around dawn or dusk. 

"If this was a human threat, if this was a person preying on people, we would take this seriously," Jenkins said. "We need everyone to take this seriously ... it will take five minutes in most cases to clear standing water from your yard." 

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