Epidemic of West Nile Virus Hits Dallas County

Update: Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins announced that Dallas County is in a State of Emergency due to the West Nile Virus epidemic. The Dallas County Director of Health and Human Services, Zachary Thompson, rated this epidemic a "9 out of 10." For more updates, please visit the Dallas County Health and Human Services Website.

Dallas health officials announced this week two more deaths related to West Nile Virus (WNV), bringing the death toll to eight so far in Dallas County in 2012.

This year has shown the highest number of reported WNV cases since this time in 2004. Viral infections have been found in 42 states, with roughly 80 percent of those being reported in Texas, Mississippi and Oklahoma.

According to local reports, there have been 141 cases of West Nile so far this year in Dallas County alone.

In response to the high number of cases, the Dallas County Medical Society (DCMS) announced its support for aerial spraying to help combat the spread of the mosquito-transmitted virus. Texas has not sprayed insecticide from the air since 1966.

“As we have watched this season’s outbreak reach historic levels, our concerns have risen,” stated John Carlo, Chair of the DCMS Community Emergency Response Committee. “After thoroughly reviewing the data, the committee voted 13-0 to recommend immediate aerial spraying.”

According to the CDC, most infections in the United States occur between June and September, with a peak around mid-August. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention sent out a release urging people to take precautions against the mosquito borne illness.

Roughly one out of every five people infected with West Nile will develop flu-like symptoms: fever, body aches, headache or vomiting. In rare instances, people will develop a neurological condition, such as inflammation of the brain or surrounding tissue, and in some cases even death. Most people, however, do not show any symptoms at all.

There is no effective vaccine or treatment for West Nile infection. Instead, health officials are urging people to avoid mosquito bites altogether as the best method of preventing West Nile disease. Recommendations include using insect repellent containing Deet; draining any standing water; and dressing in long-sleeved, loose-fitting and light-colored clothing. These precautions are especially important between dusk and dawn.

The latest West Nile-related deaths in Dallas County occurred in north Dallas and in Seagoville, a suburb southeast of the city.

Dallas County Health and Human Services officials said they will continue with ground spraying as they try to contain the outbreak and urge people to take steps to protect themselves from mosquito bites.

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