A recent rash of West Nile virus cases in the Dallas area has pushed the mayor, Mike Rawlings, to declare a state of emergency in the area. At least 700 cases have been reported this year in Texas, dwarfing numbers from the last huge West Nile scare back in 2004. 14 people have recently died in the Dallas area from contracting the quickly-spreading virus, the BBC reports.
Mike Rawlings made a public announcement this week urging citizens to take care and avoid contact with mosquitoes as much as possible. In his statement, Rawlings said, “The city of Dallas is experiencing a widespread outbreak of mosquito-borne West Nile Virus that has caused and appears likely to continue to cause widespread and severe illness and loss of life.”
80% of West Nile cases in the United States over the years generally hail from Mississippi, Texas and Oklahoma. Mosquitoes often carry the virus which can be transmitted after they draw blood from a human. 44% of the recent reported cases in Texas have been found in Dallas County, NBC News notes.
Residents have been urged to stay indoors as much as possible, avoid going out at dusk and dawn when mosquitoes are at their highest activity, and to wear insect repellent on a regular basis. Bloomberg Businessweek also notes that officials have approved the implementation of aerial spraying of insecticide in the area. Aerial spraying hasn’t been used in the Dallas area for over 45 years and it has left some slightly worried about its side effects. The process involves planes dropping insecticide over the greater Dallas area in an effort to decrease the number of mosquitoes.
The operation will cost around $500,000 taken from emergency funds and could begin as early as Thursday evening. Researchers have not come to a conclusion about the safety of aerial spraying and its effects on humans but officials claim the practice can be used safely. The state health commissioner Dr. David Lakey said that the concerns about aerial spraying safety are minimal compared to the threat of West Nile virus.
A severe outbreak of West Nile last spread out over the United States back in 2004. The CDC reports that California had over 700 reported cases that year. Texas only had 176 cases, with eight of those turning into fatalities. The virus can range from a mild fever and discomfort to a severe malady that quickly affects brain and nervous system functions. Like the flu, it’s especially dangerous for the young and the elderly.
Photo Credit: Jim Gathany