DALLAS COUNTY (CBSDFW.COM) – During a Dallas County Commissioners Court meeting Tuesday morning leaders agreed aerial spraying for the West Nile Virus should begin.

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County leaders are now waiting for 5 p.m. Wednesday, the deadline given to area mayors to submit their opinions on spraying in their individual cities. The cities of University Park and Highland Park have already signed on for aerial spraying.

As it stands, Commissioner’s Court Judge Clay Jenkins says area spraying will most likely begin Friday evening, but could possibly start as soon as Thursday.

A number of speakers, for and against aerial spraying, attended the commissioners court meeting.

Members of the group called Concerned Citizens For Safer Mosquito Control spoke out about the potential dangers of pesticides. Conversely, two men who recovered from serious cases of West Nile Virus spoke out in favor of aerial spraying. So far this year, there have been 10 Dallas County deaths attributed to West Nile Virus.

Dr. Don Read, a colon and rectal surgeon at Medical City Dallas Hospital supports county action, but said their reaction has been sluggish. “They should have started aerial spraying last week,” he said.

The majority of Dallas County West Nile cases have been north of Interstate 30, but Judge Jenkins said the southern sector is also very important in the fight against West Nile, since 23-percent of reported cases have been in the southern portion of the county.

“Because 80-percent of our West Nile cases are north of I-30, the first cities that will be looked at are those cities with the highest amount of human cases,” Jenkins explained Monday, hours before joining Commissioner John Wiley Price and climbing aboard a spray truck to personally witness intensive mosquito spraying from the ground.

Currently there are no plans for aerial spraying in the southern portion of the county, however Jenkins said if the number of cases in the area begins to increase rapidly spraying will be discussed.

To call the disease rapid moving might be an understatement. Local health officials say there are more cases of the West Nile Virus in Dallas County than any other place in the country. Twenty-five percent of the nation’s West Nile cases in humans are in Dallas County.

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Depending on the number of Dallas County cities that agree to aerial spraying up to five planes will be used to drop the insecticide.

State health officials say aerial spraying is safe and that the chemical in the planes is the same used for ground spraying.

“When you look at the data from other cities that have done aerial spraying, it is our feeling aerial spraying is safe,” State Health Service Commissioner Dr. David Lakey said Monday.

In light of the potential aerial spraying, the Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS) released a list for people concerned about exposure during spraying. Health officials suggest worried residents take the following precautions:

  • Minimize exposure. Avoid being outside, close windows and consider keeping pets inside while spraying occurs
  • If skin or clothes are exposed, wash them with soap and water
  • Rinse homegrown fruits and vegetables with water as a general precautionary measure
  • Cover small ornamental fish ponds
  • Because the chemical breaks down quickly in sunlight and water, no special precautions are suggested for outdoor swimming areas

DSHS officials say the mosquito control product will be applied at very low dosages – less than an ounce per acre – by an aircrafts flying approximately 300 feet above ground.

Most mosquito spraying programs use a class of chemicals called pyrethroids. Pyrethroids are a synthetic version of a natural, plant-based insecticide and are also found in bug sprays that can be purchased over-the-counter.

All pesticides used in public health or for public spraying have to be approved by the Environmental Protection Agency.

There hasn’t been an aerial spraying of insecticides in the Dallas-area since the 1960s.

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