Texas health department reports that the cases of West Nile virus in Dallas and across Dallas county have reached 465 with 17 confirmed deaths so far.
Mayor Mike Rawlings declared a state of emergency yesterday and has requested aerial spraying of insecticide to begin as early as today, weather permitting. It’s the first aerial spraying of insecticide in Dallas in more than 45 years. The last spraying was in 1966 due to an outbreak of encephalitis that resulted in more than a dozen deaths.
Huffington Post reports “The state health department, which will pay for the $500,000 aerial spraying with emergency funds, has a contract with national spraying company Clarke. Clarke officials have said two to five planes will be used in Dallas County.”
It remains the stance of health officials that the spraying is safe, despite the public’s voiced concerned.
WFAA-TV discusses the chemical to be used, “the brand name of the chemical which will be used is Duet. It's derived from the synthetic family of chemicals called pyrethrin.
Developed in the 1980s, it was approved by the EPA as an insecticide in 1995, and is used in pest control products throughout the world.
According to the EPA, "exposures from the many current uses of pyrethrins ... do not pose risk concerns for children or adults."
State Health Commissioner David Lakey says the public should not be overly concerned about the health risks from the aerial spray. "They are chemicals that have been shown to be very safe, shown to be effective chemicals that have been used in other communities across the United States," he said.
West Nile virus is transmitted via infected mosquitos. The CDC provides valuable information on the symptoms and preventative measures:
“What Are The Symptoms Of West Nile Virus
Serious Symptoms in a Few People: About one in 150 people infected with WNV will develop severe illness. The severe symptoms can include high fever, headache, neck stiffness, stupor, disorientation, coma, tremors, convulsions, muscle weakness, vision loss, numbness and paralysis. These symptoms may last several weeks, and neurological effects may be permanent.
Milder Symptoms in Some People; Up to 20 percent of the people who become infected have symptoms such as fever, headache, and body aches, nausea, vomiting, and sometimes swollen lymph glands or a skin rash on the chest, stomach and back. Symptoms can last for as short as a few days, though even healthy people have become sick for several weeks.
No Symptoms in Most People: Approximately 80 percent of people (about 4 out of 5) who are infected with WNV will not show any symptoms at all.
How Does West Nile Virus Spread
Infected Mosquitoes: Most often, WNV is spread by the bite of an infected mosquito. Mosquitoes become infected when they feed on infected birds. Infected mosquitoes can then spread WNV to humans and other animals when they bite.
Transfusions, Transplants, and Mother-to-Child: In a very small number of cases, WNV also has been spread through blood transfusions, organ transplants, breastfeeding and even during pregnancy from mother to baby.
Not through touching: WNV is not spread through casual contact such as touching or kissing a person with the virus.”
Incubation period (or time it takes to get sick) is anywhere between 3-14 days from the time a person is bit by an infected mosquito.
High risk groups for infection are the elderly, children and those with auto-immune disorders. No specific treatment is available yet for the infection.
Weather may have contributed to the spike, which is triple that of Dallas’ previous highest year of incidence in 2003. The warm winter and rainy spring provided ripe conditions for an increase in the population of mosquitos.
To minimize risk of infection, the CDC recommends using insect repellent with an EPA-registered active ingredient. Getting rid of mosquito breeding sites is priority. Anything outdoors that captures and holds free standing water, such as buckets, old tires and tire swings. It’s also recommended to replace the water in bird baths at least once a week.
State Health commissioner, Dr. David Lakey, reported to Huffington Post, “half of all West Nile cases in the United States so far this year are in Texas.
"There is a public health emergency related to West Nile right now," Lakey said. "The risk of air-based spraying is minimal versus the ongoing spread of West Nile."
Mayor Rawlings has approval through city charter to go ahead with the initial spraying but any further action after a seven day period has to come through City Council.