Denton County Judge Mary Horn declares health emergency

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Area municipalities get option to participate or not in aerial spraying

Denton County is set for aerial spraying to help combat mosquitoes and the West Nile virus.

After a recommendation from the Denton County Health Department, County Judge Mary Horn on Wednesday declared a West Nile virus health emergency and will request that the Texas Department of State Health Services make additional resources available to Denton County to conduct aerial spraying.

“The declaration has been done. We will be contacting the municipalities and inquiring whether they wish to be included in any aerial spraying,” said Bing Burton, Denton County Health Department director. “We have been doing that informally, but now that the declaration has been done, it will be on a more formal basis.”

Burton said every city should be contacted by today, and county officials will then await their decisions. The spraying could begin as soon as next week.

“It may depend on their ability to make a decision or if they have to call a council meeting,” Burton said.

Officials in area cities have indicated their city councils would soon consider their participation.

Denton Mayor Mark Burroughs said the judge called to let him know that the emergency had been declared, although he had not yet seen the formal notice. 

“Within a week, we’ll have to opt in or opt out — that’s my understanding,” Burroughs said. 

In the meantime, the city manager is looking for a date when a majority of the City Council can assemble and weigh the issue, Burroughs said.

In an emergency meeting Wednesday, the Pilot Point City Council voted unanimously to participate in the spraying program.

In Providence Village, the Town Council voted four to one to exclude the town from the aerial spraying. Officials were concerned about the effects of the chemicals on humans, pets and wildlife.

The council plans a meeting Monday to discuss other prevention measures such as eliminating mosquito larva.

Mayor Brian Roberson said the council didn’t vote against participating, but instead voted to postpone its decision on the matter.

“If the county decides to hold multiple aerial sprays, we will consider participating. We just chose not to at this time,” he said.

Cross Roads officials are planning a special Town Council meeting at 7 p.m. today to gain public input and give the council members a chance to do their own research, Mayor Steve Smith said.

The council plans to give the county a response by Friday morning, he said.

Smith said he hasn’t heard any concerns from his residents for the immediate area, just general concern for the North Texas region.

Argyle Town Secretary Codi Delcambre said the county contacted town officials Wednesday and gave them until the end of next week to respond. 

The Argyle Town Council is scheduled to discuss the issue at its 5 p.m. Tuesday meeting.

Corinth Mayor Paul Ruggiere said the city will consider participating in the aerial spraying, but the final decision will rest with the council and the public.

“We’re going to discuss and research all the details first,” he said. “We want to weigh the pros and cons and see if this is the best solution.”

As of Wednesday, Corinth has had two positive cases of West Nile virus, one teen and one adult.

Corinth and Lake Dallas will hold council meetings within the next few days to consider participating in the aerial spraying.

Aubrey officials will discuss the matter at their regular City Council meeting on Tuesday, said Isaac Linton, city secretary.

Linton said he hasn’t heard any concern from residents. 

Hickory Creek Mayor John Smith said council members have not decided if they will consider participating.

Shady Shores Mayor Jerry Williams said his town will not consider participating in the spraying program because he doesn’t think the problem is as severe there.

The town will instead encourage its residents to empty standing water and take other precautions, he said.

Officials in Krum, Ponder and Sanger could not be reached for comment Wednesday.

Health department spokesman Bob Martinez said Denton County has recorded 112 cases of West Nile virus with that number growing by the day. Health officials, looking at the number of cases per capita — 16 cases per 100,000 people — say aerial spraying is an option that needs to be looked into at this point.

In a news release, officials said ground spraying and use of larvacide in ponds and standing water has not been successful in containing the disease outbreak.

And while those methods along with West Nile education remain important, it is believed that the geographic advantages of aerial spraying may be the most effective means of combating the virus.

The pesticide used in aerial spraying is similar to the one employed in ground spraying. 

It is not a more concentrated dose, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has declared the pesticide safe for humans and pets, Burton said Wednesday. 

“I think resources may be made available to us perhaps as soon as Monday, but it may not be this soon,” he said.

Staff writers Donna Fielder, John D. Harden, Peggy Heinkel-Wolfe, Rachel Mehlhaff and Britney Tabor contributed to this report.

BJ LEWIS can be reached at 940-566-6875. His e-mail address is blewis@dentonrc.com .

 


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