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Dallas To Halt Aerial Spraying; More Cities Sign On

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Robbie Owens Robbie Owens
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West Nile Virus

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DALLAS (CBS 11 NEWS) – Two more North Texas have died after contracting the West Nile Virus from infected mosquitoes.  The latest deaths involve an elderly woman from University Park and a victim in Collin County.  The news comes as the City of Dallas prepares to take a new approach to fighting the disease, following two rounds of aerial spraying.

“As of right now, the city of Dallas will stop its aerial spraying,” says Mayor Mike Rawlings.  ‘We believe it’s been the right tactic in minimizing this epidemic that we are seeing.”

Ground spraying will continue in areas where infected mosquitoes are found or where additional human cases are diagnosed.  Crews will set additional traps tonight to assess the effectiveness of the aerial treatments.  But, state health officials say, so far, the results look positive.

“The numbers are decreasing, of mosquitoes, as well as the positive pools, seem to be decreasing,” says Dr. James Zoretic, a Regional Director, with the Texas Department of State Health Services.

But, the recent rainfall has been a mixed blessing.  Moving water will drown mosquito larvae.  But, the problem, local leaders say, is the standing water that’s left behind, creating what Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings calls “new breeding grounds for mosquitoes.”

So, Dallas city leaders are tasking all departments– police, fire, and especially code compliance– to be on the lookout for standing water. Citizens, too, are being asked to help elderly neighbors get rid of standing water, as well as policing their own property.

“This is a time when we need citizens to step up and help us,” says Asst. Chief Tom Lawrence with the Dallas Police Dept.  “The city is 380 square miles.  We have resources to try to address the issues, but this is the time for people to step up to help out their neighbors, help their neighborhood, do something to address the standing water.”

People unable to tackle the problem can dial 3-1-1 for help in Dallas.  Asst. Chief Lawrence says they are not asking citizens to report runoff from sprinklers that may be in the street for a couple of hours– but, rather, long term ponds of stagnant water.  Officers who spend a lot of time in the neighborhoods, he says, will be able to report problems to Code Compliance, or work with homeowners to address the issue.

Abandoned tires are an area of extreme concern as they provide ideal mosquito breeding grounds.  Tire companies will come under additional scrutiny with city marshals issuing a stern warning:  anyone caught illegally dumping tires will be arrested and could face jail time.

It is, local leaders say, a matter of life and death.  “Every new case, every death, illustrates two things: this is a serious health emergency, and you need to exhibit personal responsibility,” says Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins.

Meanwhile, a number of other North Texas cites have opted for aerial spraying.  They include:  Duncanville, Mesquite (South), Seagoville, Sunnyvale, Wilmer, Rowlett and Ferris.  Judge Jenkins says citizens in those cities should cover fish ponds and prepare for aerial treatment as early as Wednesday evening.

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