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Officials coordinate for West Nile virus season

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By Bj Lewis

Denton County Health Department officials are again partnering with health officials from Collin, Dallas and Tarrant counties to coordinate their efforts to make an impact on the upcoming West Nile virus season.

A change by state health officials will increase the number of reported West Nile cases starting this year, allowing cases to be reported even if the patient has no fever. Previously, a fever had to be present for a case to be reported.

Denton County Health Director Bing Burton said the change was likely influenced by public health practitioners across the state.

“All of us in public health recognize there was probably a disconnect in the reporting last year,” Burton said. “We would observe someone, we would look at the lab work and see every indication of West Nile, talk with the family about symptoms and there again see every symptom, but because there was no fever, officially we had no case.”

He said his office had knowledge of some cases last year that were most likely West Nile but did not get classified as such.

“With this year’s change, we anticipate there may be a few more cases,” he said.

Burton said the county will likely see the same number of illnesses but will be able to more accurately classify them. The increased numbers from the more accurate count may cause the county to take spraying measures for mosquitoes, which carry the virus.

Dallas County Health and Human Services Director Zachary Thompson said the change should also increase oversight across North Texas.

“Increased vigilance by all of us will help identify and eliminate mosquito breeding locations throughout the area and also give us an edge in our collective battle against West Nile,” Thompson said in a news release.

Health officials recommend that residents follow the four “Ds” in trying to avoid West Nile virus:

* Dress to avoid mosquito bites by wearing long, loose and light-colored clothing when outside.

* Defend yourself by using insect repellents approved by the Environmental Protection Agency or the Centers for Disease Control and Precention.

* Avoid outside activities from dusk to dawn if at all possible.

* Drain all areas of standing water in and around the home, including wading pools, pet dishes and birdbaths.

For more information on prevention of West Nile virus infection, visit www.dentoncounty.com/wnv.

BJ LEWIS can be reached at 940-566-6875 and via Twitter at @BjlewisDRC.