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Dallas County Prepares West Nile Combat Plan

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DALLAS COUNTY (CBSDFW.COM) – In leaving behind 2012, North Texas also left behind the worst season for West Nile virus on record. The area had more cases and deaths than anywhere else in the entire country.

There were nearly 1,000 cases of the mosquito-borne disease in the four major North Texas counties. Dallas County was the epicenter for the disease. There were 19 West Nile related deaths there last year.

Considering the impact of the disease in the past, Dallas officials are already preparing for future West Nile fights. Dallas County Health and Human Services Director Zachary Thompson said the city has a three-pronged attack.

“We have to look at education, we have to look at our ground application, and we also have to compliment that with aerial spraying, especially if you have wide-area outbreaks throughout Dallas County,” he said.

Tuesday morning Dallas County Commissioners approved spending $350,000 to combat mosquitoes. The money will go towards hiring a Little Rock, Arkansas-based company to set traps each week, and spray more than 5,000 square miles throughout the season.

“There are some other things coming forward,” Commissioner John Wiley Price explained. “As chairman of Public Health, I’m going to continue to provide Mr. Thompson whatever they need to declare war.”

Last year the country struggled to get people to realize the importance of taking outdoor precautions. There are still people hospitalized, dealing with the health effects of the West Nile virus from last year. Thompson said, “We’re hoping that people will still pay close attention to using insect repellant.”

To help remind citizens, Dallas County has another weapon in their war against the disease – knowledge. There will be a public campaign to get the word out about West Nile virus prevention, like dumping standing water, using DEET.

The aerial spraying done last summer — the first in Dallas County in nearly 50 years — came up during Tuesday’s West Nile meeting. When it was decided to approach the outbreak from the air, not all Dallas County cities got on board. Price said that cannot e the case going forward. “They have their own mosquito approach, [like] increasing traps, but we need more boots on the ground,” he said adding that counties need to give, “More of a commitment in regards to West Nile virus.”

Thompson also spoke about the ground spraying attack, saying the county has, “A number of trucks available, at our need, as we go forward in this West Nile prevention campaign for 2013.”

The Dallas County plan is very fluid, and officials say they will “tweak” the policy as needed. That “tweaking” could also include allotting additional money to fight the spread of the mosquito-borne-disease.

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