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Denton’s mosquito response plan looks to decrease West Nile and inform the public on prevention tactics

Denton’s mosquito response plan looks to decrease West Nile and inform the public on prevention tactics

Denton’s mosquito response plan looks to decrease West Nile and inform the public on prevention tactics
June 15
12:00 2018

During the summer months everyone just wants to sit around the pool and have a good time, however, mosquito season is underway. From May to October, those troublesome insects everyone seems to hate are out in full force, but the city of Denton and Denton County have a plan — which is updated yearly — to eliminate mosquitoes and the viruses they can bring.

“What we want to make sure is that people understand that West Nile happens every year,” said Juan Rodriquez, chief epidemiologist and assistant director for Denton County Public Health.“It happens in Denton County. We always want to increase the awareness this time of year.”

Denton is currently in a risk level two out of five of mosquito surveillance, which signifies a low chance of West Nile outbreak and focuses on destroying mosquito populations. The risk levels are constructed based on the number of mosquito pools positive with West Nile.

From season to season, everything can change so there is no way to know how bad it will be,” said Jennifer Rainey, public information officer for Denton County Public Health.

The most recent findings from the Denton County West Nile case log lists 12 cases of West Nile as of Jan. 8 and 83 mosquito pools in Denton — 18 of which are positive for West Nile.  

In a wider perspective, the Centers for Disease and Prevention had 2,002 cases of West Nile reported across 47 states as of Jan. 9 and 121 reported deaths due to the virus. Texas had a total of 133 cases with five deaths.

Denton and Denton County take charge of mosquito surveillance in their respective areas. They set up mosquito traps in undisclosed locations such as riverbeds throughout the city and county.  

The mosquitoes are then tested for West Nile and Zika. Zika is less prevalent with 55 reported cases in Texas for 2017. The disease is most primnent in Central and South America.

If the pools test positive, then ground spraying commences. Deborah Vierra, assistant director of environmental services for the city of Denton, said they will use larvicide, which kills baby mosquitoes in stagnant water.

Infographic by Kelsey Shoemaker

“Mosquitoes need water to actually be able to go from baby to adult,” Vierra said.

The city can treat mosquitoes on public property but are not allowed to work with private property. Citizens are encouraged to deal with mosquitoes on private property and eliminate stagnant water — a breeding ground for mosquitos — which is an important aspect of mosquito prevention.

“The main thing is standing water,” Rainey said. “A plate, old cups on the ground or old trash cans are all places where mosquitoes can start breeding very quickly.”

One to two teaspoons of water can become a mosquito breeding ground, and they can form in a variety of locations including flower pots, boats, pool covers, bird baths, rain gutters and pet’s water bowls.

To help with prevention, Denton County follows three D’s that stand for drain, dress and defend, referring to eliminating stagnant water, wearing long sleeves and pants and applying repellent that contains DEET, Picaridin or oil of Lemon Eucalyptus.

Vierra also recommends being inside during early morning, dusk and dawn as well as wearing light colored clothing.

Rodriquez said 80 percent of those infected with West Nile will not show any symptoms. If symptoms do occur, then they can range from headaches to disorientation or vision loss. A full list of symptoms can be found here.

“We want people to avoid being sick because it can lead you with life long symptoms, and sometimes it can cause death,” Rodriquez said.

The first case of West Nile in Denton was reported in 2002. There are five to eight cases most years, but 2012 saw an outbreak with about 184 cases.  

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Devin Rardin

Devin Rardin

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