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West Nile Virus: Amid Worst Season in Years, Why Did Dallas Delay Aerial Spraying?

West Nile Virus: Amid Worst Season in Years, Why Did Dallas Delay Aerial Spraying?

Picture of Barbara Feder Ostrov

This year's West Nile virus season is shaping up to be one of the worst since the mosquito-borne virus was first detected in the United States in 1999, in part because of this summer's extreme heat.

The CDC reports that 26 people have died so far from the disease and notes that 80 percent of the 693 West Nile cases reported so far are concentrated in six states: Texas, Mississippi, Louisiana, Oklahoma, South Dakota, and California).

I'll avoid an "everything is bigger in Texas" joke here, but the state's definitely experiencing an outsized outbreak this year, with almost half of the nation's reported cases.  

On Wed., Dallas' mayor declared a state of emergency and asked county officials to initiate aerial pesticide spraying in the city, something that hasn't been done since 1966. Until Tues., Dallas County officials themselves had rejected aerial insecticide spraying, which opponents decry as harmful to human health and to bees, in favor of less-effective, truck-based ground spraying. Kudos to Dallas Morning News editorial writer Gabriel Escobar, who questioned the county's decisions a week ago.

Could earlier aerial spraying in Dallas County and the city of Dallas prevented some of the county's West Nile virus cases, which now total about 200? So far, 10 people have died from the disease.

It's worth taking a look at opposition to aerial spraying for West Nile virus in your community: while opponents contend its health and environmental risks outweigh its benefits, public health research suggests otherwise.

Here are some resources for your work:

CDC: West Nile Resources and Data

Reporting Guide: West Nile Virus: Entrenched in U.S.

Stormy Side Effects: More West Nile Virus After Tropical Storms Irene and Lee?

Photo credit: Armed Forces Pest Management Board via Flickr


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I live in Phoenix where the battle against west nile virus has been going on for years. What seems to have worked best as
a sensible compromise for immediate control of the virus and decreased long term consequence to exposure to pesticide is
the following. Our city checks mosquitoe bait stations to see if the insects in each area are carrying the virus. If they find such areas, then these are fogged by truck during the night while high risk residents such as those with certain immune diseases
or reaction to pesticides are informed via phone and email. We should remember that staying indoors at dusk and dawn and
applying repellant (insecticide or non toxic repellant) and checking around one's property for standing water are the best method to decrease chances of contracting west nile and most likely the safest. Let's all be more personally proactive and more safe.


The Center for Health Journalism’s 2023 National Fellowship will provide $2,000 to $10,000 reporting grants, five months of mentoring from a veteran journalist, and a week of intensive training at USC Annenberg in Los Angeles from July 16-20. Click here for more information and the application form, due May 5.


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