Texas has recorded 205 cases of West Nile infection, according to the CDC's website on Tuesday. The large majority of those cases popped up in the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex, where the Dallas County Medical Society reported the virus is responsible for eight deaths. The largest outbreaks have been in Denton, Dallas and Tarrant counties, the CDC reports.
Brenda Elrod, the deputy director of the Environmental Health Department with the Northeast Texas Public Health District, said they're keeping an eye on the situation and counting on preventative measures started earlier this year.
She said that starting in April, the city and district began applying chemicals to exterminate adult mosquitoes and their larvae. Smith County does not have a program in place to combat the disease, she said, other than educational programs.
“Because Smith County doesn't give us any money for chemicals, we really just have to do an education and response thing,” she said Tuesday afternoon.
Landowners who have problems with mosquitoes on their property can contact the district, and an official will come out and survey their property for breeding grounds, she said.
In Tyler, anti-larval chemicals are administered beginning in April, as well as mineral oils, which hamper baby mosquito growth, she said. At night, aircraft spray chemicals intended to kill adult mosquitoes.
“Protect your property and protect yourself is key, because there's a whole lot more mosquitoes than there are us and we don't have that much chemical,” she said, adding that landowners should be particular about their rain gutters, which are prime breeding grounds for mosquitoes.
In addition, she said businesses in the county and city can be fined and charged with a class C misdemeanor if they're found to have pools of standing water, she said. The fine is issued after a warning if the problem is not corrected, and can be up to $500.
The disease is spread by mosquitoes who first feed on birds, she said, so if homeowners find a dead bird on their property, they should exercise caution.
Wear gloves when disposing of the deceased animal and wrap it in paper or plastic before throwing it away, Mrs. Elrod said.
She said Smith County experienced breakouts of the virus in 2003, 2007 and 2008, though no deaths were associated with them.
In Longview in 2003, an East Texas woman tested positive for the virus and died at Longview Regional Medical Center.
Jeanette R. Jones was the first reported case of West Nile virus in Gregg County that year, and the 62-year-old woman passed away, while another woman was hospitalized that year for West Nile encephalitis.
The health district can be reached by calling 903-535-0030