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Officials target W. Nile early

Profile image for By John D. Harden/ Staff Writer
By John D. Harden/ Staff Writer

Regional leaders said they believe their efforts to reduce the number of mosquitoes in the county is working and reduces any chance for a repeat of last year’s West Nile virus outbreak.

And many cities are still pushing to stay proactive as the summer season progresses.

Denton County’s West Nile virus outbreak last year was one of the worst in the state compared to other counties, according to state data. County officials in 2012 even referred to the county as ground zero for its high rate of virus infections.

The high rate of infection also resulted in the county and most local cities opting for an aerial spraying to kill West Nile virus-carrying mosquitoes.

Municipal and county leaders began monitoring and prepping early to deliver a first strike against any threat of mosquitoes carrying the West Nile virus.

So far, the number of infections in county has been zero, even though officials reported positive cases of mosquitoes carrying the virus.

Leaders made mosquito dunks available sooner than last year to local residents, and they encouraged residents to be aware of any standing water.

The dunks contain bacillus thuringiensis israelensis, or BTI, a bacterium that kills mosquito larvae in standing water, said James Kennedy, a University of North Texas biology professor.

Kennedy says he believes the dunks are more effective than spraying. He said hitting the mosquitoes early rather than later is the best method.

“Attacking the larval habitat is a very effective method of mosquito control,” he said.

Denton and areas in the southern part of the county that include the Lake Cities, Copper Canyon, Lewisville and Flower Mound were hit the hardest, according to county data.

Many leaders in those areas began establishing their own West Nile prevention programs that included publishing information fliers and handing out free mosquito dunks.

Copper Canyon Mayor Sue Tejml said she didn’t want to take any chances after two town residents fell ill last year. The town consulted with a company that specializes in mosquito control services for North Texas cities and counties.

Though Copper Canyon fared better than most cities, Tejml said she wanted to eliminate the threat as much as possible.

Corinth officials are still considering contracting for mosquito testing and ground spraying services. So far, the city has only made dunks available to residents and asked residents to eliminate any standing water.

“Our drainage crews are actively putting out the larvicide briquettes in our public waters,” Corinth Public Works Director Justin Brown said. “We have put out signs to let people know to look at our website to get information about mosquito control and what our residents can do.”

The other Lake Cities communities also offer services to their residents to monitor and control the mosquito population, which includes giving away free mosquito dunks to residents.

State officials are still trying to determine what led to last year’s outbreak. Many believe that it’s a result of the climate change, while others aren’t too sure.

Jim Schuermann, an epidemiologist with the Texas Department of State Health Services, said multiple agencies and universities are looking into the reason for the outbreaks.

“As yet, we do not know, and we may never know for sure,” he said. “My gut feeling is that we won’t see a repeat.”


JOHN D. HARDEN can be reached at 940-566-6882 and via Twitter at @JDHarden.