west nile virus (146788607)
August 15, 2012

Texas Mayor Declares An Emergency, Begins Spraying For West Nile

Michael Harper for redOrbit.com — Your Universe Online

The West Nile Virus has hit the North Texas area with a brute force this year, sending Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings to declare the area is facing a major emergency. So far, West Nile has killed 26 people nationwide, 14 of which were located in the Dallas and Fort Worth area, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

With Rawlings´ proclamation, the areas are free to be sprayed to kill any infected mosquitoes which may be carrying the disease.

So far this year, Dallas County has seen 120 cases of West Nile, contributing to Texas´ overall total of 351 cases. Officials are now saying this could be the worst year ever for West Nile virus.

Now, Dallas County will begin spraying for West Nile virus for the first time in 50 years, according to Health Day, though each community will have to approve this move before the spraying begins in their neighborhoods.

“It is not clear why we are seeing more activity than in recent years," said CDC epidemiologist Dr. Marc Fischer, speaking to CNN.

"Regardless of the reasons for the increase, people should be aware of the West Nile virus activity in their area and take action to protect themselves and their family."

Though North Texas is seeing more than their fair share of West Nile cases, other states in the South are also experiencing an increase in these cases. Louisiana, for instance, has reported a total of 68 cases so far this year, with 6 of these cases ending in death. Mississippi officials have reported a total of 59 cases and one death.

Dr. Fischer says it´s usual to see a spike in West Nile cases during this time of the year, though he doesn´t yet know why this year is particularly bad.

"That's impacted by a number of factors, environmental factors like weather, heat, precipitation, the birds that are around to amplify the virus and maintain it, the mosquitoes that spread the virus, and human behavior," said Dr. Fischer.

The city of Dallas and the surrounding DFW area have been testing for infected mosquitoes in mosquito pools throughout the area. So far, infected mosquitoes have positively been found in pools in over 20 area communities.

Perhaps most frightening about West Nile is that 80% of those infected develop few symptoms, if any. The other 20% will develop symptoms such as a fever, a mild headache, joint paint or a skin rash, according to Dr. Fischer. Less than 1% of these infected individuals will develop a neurological illness like encephalitis or meningitis. Those over 50 and those with preexisting medical conditions are at a higher risk of contracting West Nile. According to Dr. Fischer, “Children can certainly be infected with West Nile virus but are less likely to get serious neurological illness."

Though West Nile was first spotted in the US in 1999, a specific treatment for the disease is yet to be found.

In order to protect yourself from the threat of West Nile virus, the CDC recommends wearing insect repellants which contain DEET whenever venturing outside.

Furthermore, those who do go outside should wear long sleeves during the most active times for mosquitoes, either dawn or dusk. Standing pools of water are also welcome invitations to mosquitoes and should be dumped over, and empty flower pots, trash cans or kiddie pools should be turned upside down to prevent the gathering of water. Any broken windows or door screens should be repaired and, over all, if you can keep the doors closed and the air on, you should.