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West Nile outbreak prepares Longview for 2013

By Richard Yeakley
April 9, 2013 at 10 p.m.

Longview's plan for West Nile prevention this year is two-fold: Be alert and encourage residents to protect themselves.

"Because of what happened last year, that has enabled us to be a lot more prepared," said city Environmental Health Department Director Buck Farrar. "Everything seems to be conducive to some type of a repeat of last year."

This past summer and fall saw the deadliest outbreak of the mosquito-borne disease in the nation's history.

West Nile illness killed 240 Americans in 2012 - 86 in Texas.

One Gregg County resident died and 29 others were infected with the disease that had relatively small outbreaks before 2012.

This past year, the city wasn't expecting an outbreak, Farrar said. This year will be different.

The Environmental Health Department has begun looking for mosquito larva in water.

The city is also taking the word to Longview residents with a letter included in this month's water bill.

"That's the biggest part, and that is what we wanted to put in there. The city can't do everything, and we can't even do the biggest things," said city spokesman Shawn Hara.

The most important efforts to control the disease, he said, are simple prevention methods.

The letter, which will go to all city water customers, will remind residents of the four D's of mosquito prevention: dusk and dawn, deet, dress, and drain.

"As spring and summer 2013 approach, the city of Longview encourages residents to take precautions to prevent West Nile Virus. West Nile Virus is most commonly spread by infected mosquitos. Therefore, the best way to prevent the virus is to prevent mosquitoes. The most common carrier is the culex mosquito, which is usually active during the hours between dusk and dawn," the letter said.

The letter also explained how the environmental health department will fight mosquitoes.

"The city of Longview Environmental Health Department will conduct mosquito fogging throughout the city during the evening and early morning hours. More importantly, Environmental Health staff will continue to place larvacide in known areas of standing water such as stagnant ditches or pools," the letter said.

Farrar said the city has begun looking for mosquito larva in stagnant water and water run offs. Water collected is sent to the state for testing.

Larvae being detected are not culex mosquitos, which do not usually breed and become active until near the end of June.

"These are nuisance mosquitos we are seeing now, and you see them at different times, too, during the day," Farrar said.

However, he said, if crews begin to find large numbers of the nuisance mosquitoes, it could indicate a larger number of the disease-carrying culex later in the year.

So far, the department has not seen any culex larva in Longview.

Fogging for mosquitos should begin by late May or early June. Following the 2012 outbreak, the city added one fogging truck, doubling the area Environmental Health Department workers can cover.

Farrar said the conditions for a mosquito/West Nile outbreak this year are favorable.

Aaron Stevens, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service, said that an average winter and a warmer than average summer forecast could create prime conditions for breeding mosquitoes.



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