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Four North Texas Counties Jointly Fighting West Nile Virus

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DALLAS (CBS 11 NEWS) - Four North Texas county health departments are combining their planning and information to combat this year’s West Nile virus season.

Leaders from Dallas, Tarrant, Collin and Denton counties have been meeting since January to share strategies and discuss their collaborative efforts.

“Our initial meetings and discussions led us to the consensus that shifting the focus to the emergence of positive mosquitoes as an early indicator of West Nile virus activity would be a key first step. This step will help reduce the mosquito population and hopefully reduce the number of human cases,” said Tarrant County Public Health Director Dr. Lou Brewer.

Kylie Beggs is a busy mom with a busy two year old who loves to play outside.

But as temperatures heat up, she’s concerned about the threat of West Nile Virus.

“They hear West Nile and think it can’t happen to you,” said Beggs. “But I had somebody close to me get West Nile Virus last year, so it can happen to anybody.”

Last year there were hundreds of human cases and an unprecedented 36 people died from the virus from the four counties combined.

This marks the first time all four counties have united their efforts to fight the virus.

“We clearly see this disease has no boundaries so that’s why we are working together,” said Dallas County Health and Human Services Director Zachary Thompson.

“Increased vigilance by all of us will help identify and eliminate mosquito breeding locations throughout the area and also give us an edge in our collective battle against West Nile.”

A major prevention campaign is now underway to inform residents about what they can do to help reduce  human cases of West Nile Virus.

Mosquito season is May 1, and that’s usually when the awareness campaign kicks off.

“April is the earliest we’ve ever started our West Nile Virus campaign,” added Thompson.

The city of Dallas is posting yard signs near major intersection, reminding residents to kill mosquitoes.

Stacy Schirato of Dallas likes the idea.

“I think it’s great that they’re starting earlier so it doesn’t become such a big issue at the end and we don’t have to go through all those debates of should we spray or not spray. I think its a good start,” said Schirato.

This will be the first time Denton county is conducting its own mosquito surveillance.

“A major component of our unified approach will be the residents in each county,” said Dr. Bing Burton, Denton County’s Health Director. “We need their help in eliminating and reducing mosquito breeding areas in and around their homes.”

The health departments don’t want a repeat of last year’s outbreak and say the joint effort only makes sense.

“Knowing that people are crossing county boundaries daily makes it more important for us to be strategic in our actions,” commented Collin County Health Care Services Director Candy Blair.

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