Mayor Bob Townsend has sent a letter formally requesting Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins include Richardson in Dallas County’s aerial mosquito control program. The request comes at the recommendation of federal, state and local health officials who have identified an immediate public health threat in Dallas County due to the spread of the West Nile virus.
Dallas County is at the epicenter of an outbreak of the West Nile virus. The area accounts for nearly half of the human cases of West Nile virus in Texas, and nearly a quarter of all human cases currently recorded in the United States. The North Dallas County area, which includes parts of Richardson, holds approximately 76% of those cases.
“The evidence is very compelling that it is time to expand on mosquito control efforts in our region,” said Richardson Mayor Bob Townsend. “Health leaders from government agencies at the federal, state and local level, and third party medical groups all support expanded action to limit the risks to people from contracting this potentially deadly disease.”
Dallas County has declared a public health emergency. The declaration allows the county and state to request extra resources from federal agencies to combat the spread of the West Nile virus. Five planes have been requested, and will be ready to begin operations this Thursday. Richardson has approved a recommendation from Dallas County to take part in aerial mosquito control spraying efforts. The aerial spraying will be done in conjunction with Richardson’s other mosquito control measures.
State health officials say the spray that will be used is the same as the pesticide being used in trucks; however, the aerial spraying will allow the mosquito control fighting measures to be more efficiently applied and the spray will be more uniformly dispersed in areas where vehicle spraying cannot reach.
A date and time for aerial spraying has not yet been set for the city. Once scheduled, aerial spraying will include parts of Richardson located in both Dallas and Collin County. The aerial spraying is expected to occur on at least two separate occasions within 24 to 48 hours of each other. The City will notify residents of scheduled aerial spray times through alerts to local media, and through “reverse 911,” social media, website and direct e-mail messages to those signed up for community notifications.
The Richardson Health Department has stepped up its mosquito control program due to the increased threat of the spread of the West Nile virus. Neighborhoods where West Nile virus has been detected in either mosquito traps or confirmed human cases are now being sprayed twice on subsequent days. Health Department staff is also now including alleys in neighborhood spray patterns, and personal contact is being made with property owners where potential mosquito breeding areas are noticed.
Increased mosquito control efforts are anticipated to continue through the month of August, which is historically the most active month for the incidents of finding the West Nile virus in the community. The Richardson Health Department will continue to monitor the findings of West Nile virus in people and mosquito pools to determine when increased mosquito control efforts will be scaled back.
How Spraying Locations Are Chosen
The Richardson Health Department schedules mosquito sprayings based on positive findings of West Nile virus in mosquito traps placed around the city or if a human case is confirmed. Once located, the area around the positive finding is targeted for spraying in an attempt to help limit the spread of the disease. Due to recent increases in the incidents of finding the West Nile virus in people and mosquito traps, targeted neighborhoods are now being sprayed twice. However, spraying is only a measure to help limit exposure, and health workers urge people to maintain vigilance in protecting themselves when going outside.
When Spraying Occurs
Richardson schedules spraying events during overnight hours to limit exposure to people who may wish to avoid contact with the pesticide used to control mosquito populations. Spraying events begin at 10 p.m. with the goal of ending by 3 a.m., though they may run until 4:30 a.m. depending upon the size of the spray area. In order to minimize human exposure, the Health Department typically does not schedule spraying events on Friday, Saturday or Sunday; however, due to recent increases in the findings of the West Nile virus, the Richardson Health Department will spray on weekends as needed.
Spraying Is One Part Of Protection Plan
Spraying to control the population of mosquitoes and the spread of the West Nile virus is a last resort, and is part of a comprehensive plan the Richardson Health Department follows to control the mosquito population. Other activities include: continuous monitoring of mosquito test pool results, using larvicide along creeks and other stagnant bodies of water to prevent mosquito eggs from developing into adults, monitoring and notification in neighborhoods where potential mosquito breeding areas are discovered, and public education efforts through mass communications channels.
(Map of Richardson mosquito testing sites.)
How To Protect Yourself
To protect from mosquito bites, people are asked to follow the Four D’s of protection:
More on the West Nile Virus
- DRAIN standing water around the home,
- Use insect repellent containing DEET,
- Avoid being outdoors at DUSK and DAWN when mosquitoes are most active,
- And DRESS to protect yourself with long sleeves and pants to reduce skin exposure.
The West Nile virus is transmitted by a bite from an infected mosquito that's already carrying the virus, but not all mosquitoes are capable of carrying or transmitting the disease. In North Texas, the risk of being bitten by an infected mosquito is greatest from July to October. Not everyone who gets bitten by an infected mosquito will get the virus, and it's rare for people to become very sick if they do develop symptoms from the disease.
Symptoms of West Nile virus vary depending upon the person who becomes infected. People who do develop symptoms usually suffer from mild "flu-like" illness. Rarely, symptoms may require medical care or hospitalization. The people who are most susceptible to the disease are the very young, the very old and those with weakened immune systems.