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Dallas mayor declares end to aerial West Nile spraying

Profile image for By Sherry Jacobson and Scott Farwell / The Dallas Morning News
By Sherry Jacobson and Scott Farwell / The Dallas Morning News

Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings declared an end to aerial spraying this week in city neighborhoods doused twice with insecticides to kill mosquitoes spreading the West Nile virus.

“The initial result is showing us that aerial spraying is working with no visible side effects,” he said. “We believe it was the right tactic.”

The mayor’s pronouncement came as the West Nile death toll continued to rise.

Dallas County announced its 11th fatality, a woman in her 80s who lived in University Park, late Monday afternoon.

About an hour later, Collin County revealed that a Plano resident was its first fatality related to the West Nile outbreak.

“To me, every new case illustrates that this is a serious health emergency,” said Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins, who spearheaded the aerial spraying effort two weeks ago.

To drive home the point, Jenkins said he has begun dosing himself with a DEET-containing mosquito repellent every morning after he showers.

“People should make it part of their daily hygiene,” he suggested. “I don’t know how many ways we can say this is so important.”

Still, aerial spraying remained a topic of debate this week in a number of southern Dallas County cities.

Elected officials asked for more time to consider if they needed to go beyond ground spraying and other protective measures.

Jenkins said he understood that each community needed to make its own decision.

“Those cities are trying to arrive at the best decision for the residents,” he said. “My role is to advocate for whatever they want.”

Irving, Glenn Heights, Hutchins, DeSoto and Cockrell Hill have rejected aerial spraying.

Officials have opted for aerial spraying later this week in Duncanville, Seagoville, Sunnyvale, Wilmer, Rowlett, Ferris and southern Mesquite.

“We’ve asked the state for spraying to begin Wednesday night and be repeated on Thursday night,” Jenkins said. “If you want to cover your beehives or your pond, assume we’ll be spraying then.”

In a much larger spraying operation, five twin-engine planes crisscrossed Dallas County for more than seven hours Monday night and Tuesday morning, laying down a second coat of insecticide for most of the region.

“They covered all of the 360,000-plus acres that needed to be done,” said Laura McGowan, a spokeswoman for Clarke, the pesticide company overseeing the aerial operation. “Now we need to get out there and do some [mosquito] trapping to see how effective this has been.”

So far, preliminary tests appear to indicate there are fewer numbers of mosquitoes than before extensive ground and aerial spraying. However, it would be too early to call the efforts a success, the officials said.

Zachary Thompson, director of Dallas County Health and Human Services, said mosquito experts would have to determine if the declining number was related to the natural life-and-death cycle or if the spraying was responsible.