Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings has declared the city’s recent West Nile virus outbreak a state of emergency and authorized an aerial spraying of insecticide in the city and surrounding areas to begin tonight. Weather permitting, spraying will begin in the Dallas metropolitan area at 8:30 pm and last until midnight.
More than 200 cases of West Nile and 10 deaths linked to the virus have been reported across Dallas County, and state health department statistics show 381 cases and 16 deaths related to West Nile statewide.
The Environmental Protection Agency considers the spray non-toxic for humans and animals, but the following precautions should be followed to optimize safety in preparation for the spraying:
- Stay indoors and keep your windows closed
- If clothes or skin come in contact with the spray, wash thoroughly with soap and water
- Keep gardens clean: wash homegrown fruits and vegetables before consumption
- Cover small, ornamental fishponds. (Due to the chemical breakdown that occurs when exposed to sunlight and water, swimming pools should not be affected)
According to Dr. Marc Fischer, a medical epidemiologist with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC), 80% of people who are infected with the West Nile virus develop few or no symptoms, while 20% develop mild symptoms such as headache, joint pain, fever, skin rash and swollen lymph glands.
The CDC reports that in more extreme cases, the virus can lead to serious neurologic illness, such as encephalitis or meningitis (inflammation of the brain or surrounding tissues), or death. People older than 50 and those with certain medical conditions, such as cancer, diabetes, hypertension, kidney disease and organ transplants, are at greater risk for serious illness.
- To protect yourself from the West Nile virus:
- Use insect repellents when outside
- Wear long sleeves and pants from dawn to dusk
- Do not leave standing water outside in open containers, such as flowerpots, buckets and kiddie pools
- Install or repair windows and door screens
- Use air conditioning when possible