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Fight West Nile virus early

Several local municipalities are discussing the best approaches to defend against the possibility of another West Nile virus outbreak in the region this summer, and their timing couldn’t be better.

Officials are asking residents to be proactive in eliminating any standing water, and thanks to recent rainfall, there are likely plenty of stray pockets of moisture to drain.

Just about any type of receptacle or depression can become a favorable breeding area for mosquitoes — those overflow saucers beneath potted plants are often culprits — because it doesn’t take very much water to pose a problem.

Plus, it doesn’t take long for those small, out-of-the-way caches of rainwater to become mosquito breeding grounds, and the longer the pockets are allowed to stand, the worse the problem can become.

And it’s never too early to practice good preventative measures. Though the county hasn’t reported any cases, municipalities are distributing mosquito dunks and officials are asking residents to be proactive in eliminating any standing water.

Last year, Denton County reported its first human case of the virus in May, and when we checked the calendar this morning, we were already into April. That case last May was the first in a series of cases that led to the worst outbreak on record, according to county and state health data, and regional leaders want to make sure their municipalities do not suffer a repeat performance.

The county had approximately 16 cases for every 100,000 residents. It was one of the highest rates in the state, said Bing Burton, director of the county health department. By comparison, Tarrant and Dallas counties reported between seven and nine cases per 100,000 residents. According to Denton County records, a total of 184 cases and two deaths were reported.

“I would be remiss if I did not issue a challenge now to all of us to prepare for the upcoming problem regarding the West Nile virus issue,” Shady Shores Mayor Jerry Williams said. “This is the time to enact prevention by eliminating areas of standing water where the larvae can produce.”

Last year, County Judge Mary Horn declared a health emergency, calling for a countywide aerial spraying to help combat mosquitoes that carry the virus. Horn allowed county municipalities to opt out of the aerial spray and 13 of 44 municipalities opted out, including Denton.

We can understand why some are opposed to aerial spraying, and we realize that choosing to go that route is a tough call for city officials.

But maybe if we all work together and get an early start on preventative measures, we can help keep West Nile virus from getting out of hand this year. The county has provided information about West Nile and tips on preventing it at

Leaders in several area cities have expressed interest in adding West Nile virus discussions to their upcoming agendas, and we encourage them to follow up on their plans.

Prevention is one effective measure that we should all be able to support.