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Longview takes precautions against West Nile virus

By Sherry Koonce
July 9, 2012 at 11 p.m.

Multiple cases of West Nile virus and West Nile fever have been reported recently across the state, and local officials are taking steps against mosquitoes to make sure the virus doesn't spread to East Texas.

Eight people in the Dallas-Fort Worth metro area have been diagnosed with West Nile virus, and 10 others in North Central Texas have been infected with West Nile fever, the Texas Department of State Health Services said Monday.

In coastal Port Arthur this past week, three mosquitoes taken from a sampling tested positive for West Nile virus, though no animal or human cases were found.

While there have been no reported cases of West Nile virus in Northeast Texas in 2012, recent rains across the region increase the presence of mosquitoes and the chance the disease could spread to the area, officials said.

This past year, the $10,000 earmarked by the city of Longview for fighting mosquitoes was not spent because the drought all but eliminated the mosquito population. This year's budget is $12,000, said Buck Farrar, city environmental health supervisor.

With the state under a federal mandate to limit the amount of herbicides put into the air and waterways, Farrar said the city has all but stopped spraying for mosquitoes and has no plans to start unless there is a significant infestation or a West Nile outbreak.

"We have not sprayed for quite a while. What we've been doing is stopping them before they take flight," Farrar said.

In lieu of the traditional fogging from the back of a mosquito spray truck, Longview's environmental health department concentrates on treating stagnant water. The procedure puts a film on the water then suffocates and kills the larvae before they have a chance to turn into mosquitoes.

"Spraying is like a band-aid," Farrar said, "What we are doing is stopping them before they take flight."

The department also spends time educating - teaching people to guard for stagnant water.

"What we are asking people to do is watch their own stagnant water. A container does not have to be very deep to catch water, become stagnant and breed mosquitoes," he said.

Larvae can hatch in as few as 10 to 14 days, and some mosquito eggs lie dormant in low areas, waiting for water to create an environment perfect for hatching.

One of the chief culprits is old tires. The round rubber is a perfect shady place for mosquitoes to lay eggs, he said.

Though the number of West Nile cases has decreased significantly over the years, the disease not been annihilated, Farrar said.



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