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West Nile blamed for second East Texas death

By Sherry Koonce skoonce@news-journal.com
Aug. 29, 2012 at 10 p.m.

A second East Texan has died from West Nile virus, state health officials reported Wednesday.

A confirmed death in Panola County brings the number of East Texans who have died from the illness to two, including one Gregg County resident. A Texarkana woman also died earlier of the virus.

The latest state figures indicate another confirmed case of the less severe West Nile fever illness in Gregg and Smith counties, according to the Texas Department of State Health Services. Officials did not release details of the sick residents or in which areas they live.

As the number of West Nile virus cases in Texas continues to rise, the increased numbers of people contracting the illness is mirroring those cases across the nation.

To combat the outbreak, area cities and counties have increased preventative measures. This week, as children started back to school or started daycare, officials warned to take precautions against the mosquito-borne disease.

In one week, the number of West Nile virus cases in the U.S. was up 40 percent - a large enough climb to rival state record years set in 2002 and 2003, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported Wednesday.

Statewide, the total number of confirmed cases jumped 14 percent in two days, from 783 recorded Monday to 894 Wednesday, according to the latest data released by the Texas Department of State Health Services.

The Dallas-Forth Worth area continues to lead the state in number of cases and number of deaths.

Dallas has had 12 deaths this year, while four deaths have occurred in Tarrant County, officials reported.

Statewide, the number of deaths in Texas increased by three, from 31 to 34 in the past two days.

This year, 1,590 U.S. cases of West Nile have been reported to the CDC and 66 deaths recorded.

To combat the chance of contracting West Nile from the transmitting-Culex mosquito, the city of Longview intensified city-wide truck-fogging program.

City spokesman Shawn Hara said the spraying is going as planned.

The truck-mounted mosquito spraying will occur primarily Mondays through Thursdays during 4 to 6 a.m. and again from 9 to 11 p.m.

Weather events, such as the anticipated rain from Hurricane Isaac, could interrupt the spraying, but city crews will get back on schedule the next day, or following Monday, depending on the date or severity of the interfering weather patterns.

Area schools have stepped up efforts to eradicate mosquitoes by increased mowing and efforts to drain areas with standing water.

In some cases, schools are encouraging parents to apply insect repellant at home, before their child leaves for school.

Kilgore ISD Superintendent Jody Clements said the district has encouraged parents to spray children before they come to school, or attend sporting events, if they are worried about outside activities.

"I am sure most of the folks are going to spray their kids down," Clements said.

For those who would prefer, the school nurse can spray students with insect repellant provided by the parents, as long as parental permission is granted.

"We will treat (repellant) like meds. It goes to the school nurses office, and the students have to sign in to get sprayed," Clements said.

Spring Hill Superintendent Wes Jones said the district has also recommended that parents spray their children at home.

Longview Independent School District contracted with a company to spray areas of standing water, bleachers, concession areas and basically any place that may harbor mosquitoes, said district spokesman Adam Holland.

Start-up cost for the increased effort is $1,230 plus an additional $850 per month until the district feels confident that this year's mosquito season has concluded.

School officials also are encouraging people attending outdoor sporting events, such as football games, to take added precautions.

Since football games are scheduled at night, those attending are targets for the Culex mosquito, which is most active from dusk until dawn.

At Pine Tree ISD, outdoor practices for extra-curricular activities such as athletics, band or drill team are being held in open areas on pavement, short grass or dirt -areas that attract fewer mosquitoes.

Hallsville ISD is also taking extra measures to keep tall grass down and standing water drained.

Public schools aren't the only ones aware of the increased West Nile danger this year.

Sharon Marshall, owner of Sharon's Kids Korner on Methvin Street, said the daycare has taken pro-active steps to keep the children safe.

"We sent notes home to parents requesting they bring repellant wipes or spray," Marshall said.

Because the daycare is open from 6 a.m. until 6 p.m. and children often play early in the morning while it is cool, Marshall said it was important to take the added safeguards.

"Our parents thought it was a great idea," she said.

To prevent the possibility of infection from mosquito bites, people are urged to observe the four D's:

Stay indoors at dusk and dawn. This is the time mosquitoes are most active.

Dress in long sleeves/pants, loose and light-colored clothing when outdoors.

Defend yourself from mosquitoes by using an insect repellent that contains DEET, Picaridin, or Oil of Lemon Eucalyptus. Follow label instructions.

Drain standing water in yards and neighborhoods. Also make sure flower pots, water dishes, bird baths, and wading pools are properly drained sot they are not breeding grounds for mosquitoes.

<strong>West Nile Cases</strong>

<table> <tbody> <tr> <td><strong>County</strong></td> <td><strong>Deaths</strong></td> <td><strong>West Nile neuroinvasive disese</strong></td> <td><strong>West Nile fever</strong></td> <td><strong>Total cases</strong></td> </tr> <tr> <td>Angelina</td> <td>0</td> <td>7</td> <td>3</td> <td>10</td> </tr> <tr> <td>Camp</td> <td>0</td> <td>1</td> <td>0</td> <td>1</td> </tr> <tr> <td>Dallas</td> <td>12</td> <td>140</td> <td>118</td> <td>258</td> </tr> <tr> <td>Gregg</td> <td>1</td> <td>10</td> <td>6</td> <td>16</td> </tr> <tr> <td>Harrison</td> <td>0</td> <td>2</td> <td>0</td> <td>2</td> </tr> <tr> <td>Panola</td> <td>1</td> <td>1</td> <td>1</td> <td>2</td> </tr> <tr> <td>Rusk</td> <td>0</td> <td>4</td> <td>1</td> <td>5</td> </tr> <tr> <td>Smith</td> <td>0</td> <td>7</td> <td>2</td> <td>9</td> </tr> <tr> <td>Tarrant</td> <td>4</td> <td>84</td> <td>111</td> <td>195</td> </tr> <tr> <td>Upshur</td> <td>0</td> <td>1</td> <td>1</td> <td>2</td> </tr> <tr> <td>Van Zandt</td> <td>0</td> <td>2</td> <td>4</td> <td>6</td> </tr> <tr> <td colspan="5"><strong><em>Source:</em></strong> Texas Department of State Health Services</td> </tr> </tbody> </table>



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