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Protection Against West Nile Virus Starts At Home

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CEDAR HILL (CBSDFW.COM) - The searing summer heat is still a few weeks away, but health officials say a perennial summer worry has already arrived: West Nile virus.

“Yeah, I heard that on the news,” says Bruce Chrimes. His backyard garden and vegetable stand keeps him outdoors for much of the day, in a Cedar Hill neighborhood where Dallas County’s first mosquito pool has tested positive for West Nile.

“I’m going to do what I can; but, in the same respect, I mean, I’ve still got this to look after… so, when the mosquitoes are active and I see them, a mosquito spray is about all I can do.”

Dallas county health officials say they’ll do what they can. Weather permitting, overnight spraying for mosquitoes is scheduled in neighborhoods west of Highway 67, north east of Beltline, north of Pleasant Run, and south of Clark Road.

“They’re going to ask ‘what is Dallas County doing’,” says Zachary Thompson, Director of Dallas County Health and Human Services.  “The question going forward is what are our citizens doing to protect themselves?”

Health officials are, of course, encouraging residents to dump standing water, wear long sleeves and insect repellants.  But, this this year the message is being expanded to urge residents to wear insect repellant anytime they’re outdoors because of a new threat that’s coming.

“Chikungunya is a new virus that they’re predicting that we will see in 2-3 years,” says Thompson.  “The specific mosquito that will be carrying this new virus, it’s going to be a daytime mosquito.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control, the most common symptoms of Chikungunya virus infection are fever and joint pain, headache, muscle pain, joint swelling or rash.  Like West Nile fever, there is no vaccine to guard against the disease.

Outbreaks have been reported in countries in Africa, Asia, Europe and the Indian and Pacific Oceans.  The Chikungunya virus was found for the first time in the Americas on islands in the Caribbean in late 2013.

According to Thompson, there have been no reported cases in the United States, but the CDC and state health officials are urging local health departments to start working on changing behaviors, now.

“Do I need to go inside and get a long sleeved shirt and spray my arms down?” asks Walter Rhim, while watering his front yard flowers.  Rhim says he is only partially joking because he takes the West Nile threat seriously, for a very simple reason:

“It’s deadly… it’s very deadly,” says Rhim, “If it don’t kill you, it’ll hurt you. I want to be healthy.”

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