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West Nile Precautions Underway At State Fair

(credit: KTVT/KTXA) Bud Gillett
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DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) – Imagine you’re in the midst of battling serious concerns over the West Nile Virus. Now imagine you have roughly three million people converging on one area of the city, at roughly the same time.

That’s the challenge facing the State Fair of Texas, opening next month in Dallas.

General spraying for mosquitoes and flies began in livestock areas last October and spraying specifically for West Nile is underway.

“They got it pretty safe. People come out here every day,” fair worker Albert Franklin said.

Despite heavy vegetation lining the Esplanade and active bees around it, Franklin said he doesn’t see any mosquitoes.

“They spray kind of often, and they spray real good for when they get ready for the fair. So, they spray real good.”

Fair officials say the Esplanade was hand-sprayed two weeks ago and the fairgrounds were covered again during aerial spraying. The lagoon will get attention before the fair opens in September.

On Tuesday mosquitoes weren’t a worry for workers swapping out fencing. Dave Annis with United Services says the insect problem is better in Fair Park than others places he works.

“I haven’t been bitten out here that I know of,” he said thankfully. “So I feel pretty comfortable working out here every morning.”

Fair officials say they are advising fairgoers to worry about only normal outdoor precautions.

Bob Hilburn, Vice President of State Fair Maintenance and Operations, says inspections are ongoing.

“And we’ll monitor the situation around the grounds because I have workers all over the grounds and if I get any complaints about mosquitoes or things like that; we’re set to do any ground spraying, we’re set to do any ground spraying of things like that we need to to keep everything in control for September.”

According to Hilburn, routine mosquito and insect maintenance is done every year, with or without West Nile virus threats.

“It’s just part of the State Fair make-ready process,” he said.
But why is Dallas getting hit so hard by the virus and why this year? That’s the big question, according to officials with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Dave Daigle is spokesman for the CDC team in Dallas looking for answers. He says the organization is working with state and local authorities to review West Nile mosquito trap results, both before and after Dallas County aerial spraying. Experts are also analyzing the hundreds of human cases in Texas, looking for trends.

“There’s many factors that play into it,” Daigle said. “There’s the birds, there’s humans, there’s weather, and the mosquitoes themselves.”

Unfortunately, Daigle said the West Nile problem won’t be fleeting. “What we do know is West Nile is going to stay here. We’re going to probably see more cases. We see West Nile every year, it’s endemic, I’m afraid.”

The CDC team consists of two epidemiologists, two “disease detectives” and an entomologist. Because of the incubation time in human cases it will be weeks before the detailed CDC report is ready.

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