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Friday 21st October 2016

Texas hit by West Nile virus outbreak

21st August 2012

Authorities in Texas have called in public health experts to help control an outbreak of the mosquito-borne West Nile virus, the worst yet known in the United States.


The state had records of 586 cases of the disease by 21 August, of which 21 were fatal.

Officials have called on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for help in controlling the outbreak, which appears to be centred around Dallas, where officials have already declared a public-health emergency.

Two CDC epidemiologists traveled to Texas this week as part of the nationwide outbreak strategy, known as Epi-Aid response, spokeswoman Kristen Nordlund said.

Their brief is to help summarise data from across Texas regarding West Nile virus activity in both humans and mosquitoes.

They will also investigate the conditions that may be giving rise to a higher number of cases in humans this year, Nordlund said.

Authorities have also launched a series of aerial pesticide spraying campaigns, the largest such effort in more than four decades.

Five planes finished the first round of spraying, which took four days in total, with a pesticide based on pyrethrin, in an attempt to control the mosquitoes that spread the disease.

This in itself was controversial, with some residents saying they were concerned about its effects.

The pesticide, known as Duet, is approved by both the CDC and the country's Environmental Protection Agency.

According to pest-control company spokeswoman Laura McGowan, workers covered 362,000 acres and planned to trap mosquitoes to measure the effectiveness of their efforts.

She said earlier tests had been promising, but samples were not large enough to draw firm conclusions.

McGowan said the company aimed to get as much spraying done as possible in as short a time as possible, although individual cities in Dallas County would decide for themselves whether it should continue in their area.

But she said the spraying operation should not lull local residents into going out and about without their own personal supply of mosquito repellent, nor into relaxing their vigilance over pools of standing water, in which mosquitoes breed.

She said people needed to be vigilant in the wake of recent heavy rains.

The virus can take up to two weeks to incubate in the human body, and state officials are warning people not to expect an immediate end to cases as a result of the pesticide spraying campaign.

According to Carrie Williams, a Texas health department spokeswoman, more cases are likely to be reported, and the situation could appear to worsen before an improvement is seen.

No counties or cities outside Dallas have requested aerial spraying, neither have they reported large numbers of cases, she said.

She said officials would be compiling data across the whole length of the outbreak to gauge when a reduction in cases began.

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