Dallas County targets West Nile with aerial spraying of insecticide
DALLAS — Suffering from the nation's deadliest outbreak of West Nile virus this year, Dallas County authorized aerial spraying of insecticide Friday for the first time in nearly five decades to help fight the mosquito-born illness.
Texas' second most populous county announced the decision after its leaders met with the state's top health official and experts from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Nearly 90 cases of the most severe form of West Nile have been confirmed in the county so far, nine residents have died, and the virus' peak season is just beginning.
"This is a matter of extreme concern, and we're going to follow the science and do what's best for our people," said Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins, the county's top elected official.
Five planes have been requested for spraying the heavily populated northern part of Dallas as well as the nearby enclaves of Highland Park and University Park — the most affected areas — but they won't be used until leaders in those jurisdictions approve, said Jenkins, who urged the cities to allow the planes in.
Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings said he plans to meet with city, county and state officials and industry experts early next week to decide how to proceed.
Jenkins on Thursday declared a public health emergency. Three nearby counties have reported one death each.
There is no vaccine for the virus, which has been in the U.S. since about 1999, according to the CDC. The virus, which most often affects people older than 50, can cause high fevers, headaches and disorientation.
Health officials typically advise residents of mosquito-prone areas to drain standing water, apply insect repellent containing the ingredient DEET and wear long-sleeve shirts and long pants.
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