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A little prevention worth a lot of cure

One of the problems with living in North Texas is that mosquito season can seem to run year-round, so we were glad to hear that plans are already under way to trap mosquitoes to test for West Nile virus.

Officials with the Denton County Health Department announced recently that they will begin trapping mosquitoes in unincorporated areas of the county, and we like their proactive stance. An early assessment could help us avoid another West Nile outbreak like the one reported in the county last year.

Bing Burton, Denton County Health Department director, said he doesn’t expect this year’s season to equal the 182 Denton County cases reported in 2012, but he wants to be on top of things.

“If there are positive results from our testing, then the county will need to consider and determine whether it wants to do ground spraying,” Burton said.

Burton said that many cities do their own testing and spraying, and that the county plan will add to these efforts. Burton said county officials will share data with any city officials that want it and will work to post the information to the county’s website.

In addition to the trapping, Burton said, the health department will continue to spread the word on preventative measures and work toward improving communication patterns with county municipalities.

The severity of last year’s West Nile outbreak prompted county officials to conduct aerial spraying of pesticides, and a recent report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention indicated that the tactic had a measurable impact in preventing the West Nile virus in areas covered.

Marc Fischer, epidemiologist with the CDC, said the impact of aerial spraying could have been greater had it been done earlier. The earlier in an outbreak you can do an intervention, the more likely you are to prevent cases, he said.

“It’s a difficult decision when you’re talking about something as large, costly and [that] impacts as many people as an aerial spraying. In those counties in North Texas, they were doing a lot of interventions early, [but] if [aerial spraying] had been done earlier, it may have prevented additional cases,” Fischer said.

We agree with Fischer that approving aerial spraying is a difficult decision, but we can’t help wondering how much more effective the spraying would have been if more municipalities had participated. Several, including Denton, opted out of aerial spraying last year.

We may never know the answer to that question, and thanks to the county’s early start on West Nile awareness, we may not have to consider aerial spraying again this year.

“I think aerial spraying should be a last resort this year, just as it was last year, and hopefully, by doing the trapping in unincorporated parts of the county and with the cities doing their trapping, we can keep a closer monitoring of the situation,” County Commissioner Andy Eads said. “And we can focus more on prevention in 2013 than responding like we did in 2012.”

We’ve always believed that a little prevention is worth a lot of cure, and we join Denton County officials is encouraging the public to learn all they can about combating mosquitoes so we can keep West Nile virus at bay throughout the year.