West Nile Virus Invasion Causes Dallas County to declare State of Emergency

Dallas County is in a health state of emergency due in part to the West Nile virus epidemic and Judge Clay Jenkins’ official declaration.

Jenkins instructed the Homeland Security and Emergency Management Department to file a local disaster declaration with the state.

“This declaration will expand our avenues for assistance in our ongoing battle with West Nile virus,” Jenkins said. “We are in constant communication with our state and regional partners. We will continue to make data and research driven decisions in seeking to supplement the outstanding work of Dallas County’s director of Health and Human Services (DCHHS) Zachary Thompson.”

Jenkins organized a work session on Friday, August 10, with county, state and federal health and emergency management officials to discuss their response to the virus outbreak. They will hold a press conference afterward to share any pertinent information, updates and decisions reached.

The number of pesky mosquitoes carrying the virus has exponentially increased throughout the county. Summer backyard barbecues and afternoons by the pool may be exacerbating the situation. Nevertheless the CDC has reported a significant rise in the disease.

Dr. Jorge Parada, spokesperson for the National Pest Management Association (NPMA), cautions that mosquitoes are not just a nuisance pest. “Mosquitoes in every region of the country transmit disease-causing pathogens that can trigger a range of symptoms and illnesses. In the United States, West Nile virus and allergic reactions are some of the more frequent concerns.” According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there were more than 1,000 reported cases of West Nile virus (WNV) in the United States in 2010 (the latest year for which data are available).

To minimize your family’s risk of mosquito-borne illnesses, there are certain precautions that should be taken. NPMA recommends the following steps:

* Wear insect repellant when outdoors. Products containing DEET, picaridin or oil of lemon eucalyptus have proven to be safe and effective. (Parents should consult with their pediatrician for repellent recommendations.)

* If you will be outdoors for long periods where heavy mosquito activity is predicted, consider wearing clothing treated with permethrin.

* Eliminate sources of standing water around your home, including flower pots, clogged gutters and grill covers. Take proactive measures by drilling holes in the bottom of recycling bins, and replacing water in birdbaths weekly.

* Inspect window/door screens for holes, and repair any tears to minimize chances for entry into the home.

* If bitten, clean the area thoroughly with soap and water. Avoid scratching the bite area and apply anti-itch cream if necessary.

Some homeowners feel a sense of security by using citronella candles, but it’s worth noting that while they may minimize the mosquito population in a targeted area, they will not eliminate the insects nor prevent them from biting.

For more information on protecting against mosquitoes or to find a professional who can help control them, visit www.pestworld.org.