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Dallas Mayor declares state emergency as West Nile virus spreads

By Layne Weiss     Aug 15, 2012 in Health
Dallas - Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings has declared the city's West Nile virus outbreak to be a state emergency. The outbreak has killed at least 14 people in the state of Texas so far this year, and 26 nationwide, CNN reports.
According to The AP, Dallas and other north Texas cities have decided to start using aerial spraying to kill the mosquitos that carry the virus. The use of aerial spraying is pretty rare. The city of Dallas last had it in 1966 due to more than a dozen deaths which were blamed on encephalitis.
"The city of Dallas is experiencing a widespread outbreak of mosquito borne West Nile virus that has caused and appears likely to continue to cause widespread and severe illness and loss of life," Mike Rawlings said, according to BBC News.
Aerial spraying can begin Thursday evening. According to The AP, the state health department will pay for the aerial spraying, which costs $500,000. The national spraying company, Clarke, will conduct the aerial spraying, and say two to five planes will be used in Dallas County.
Almost 700 cases of the virus have been reported nationwide, BBC News reports.
This is the highest number of cases since 2004.
According to CNN, 42 states have reported infections. 80% of these cases have been in Texas, Mississippi, and Oklahoma.
Texas is reportedly the worst affected state.
Aerial spraying is also being considered in New York City as the virus was discovered in Staten Island, Sacramento, CA, and other US cities, BBC News reports.
Symptoms of the virus include fever, headache, body aches, joint pains, vomiting, diarrhea, or rash, CNN reports.
The virus rarely causes more serious illnesses, The Center for Disease Control and Prevention said.
People over 50 with conditions such as cancer, diabetes, kidney disease, and those with organ transplants are considered to be at much larger risk of the virus turning into a serious neurological illness such as meningitis or encephalitis.
Texas residents have been strongly advised to use insect repellent and to do their best to avoid being outside at dusk and dawn, BBC News reports.
Dallas City Council members have expressed some concern about the dangers of aerial spraying such as the health effects on humans and animals,The AP reports.
Mayor Rawlings has assured these concerned citizens that the dose of aerial spraying used will be relatively low.
State health commissioner David Lakey reiterated how severe this situation is. Half of the West Nile cases in the US this year, have been in Dallas.
"There is a public health emergency related to West Nile," Lakey said according to The AP. "The risk of air based spraying is minimal vs. the ongoing spray of West Nile."
According to BBC News, officials say it is too early determine what exactly has caused this outbreak, though some have hypothesized that the mild winter and wet spring may have been a factor.
The West Nile virus was first discovered in Uganda in 1937, the CDC reports.
It is carried by birds and then spread to humans by mosquitoes.
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