West Nile Virus has killed one person in Travis County this year, but Central Texas officials are concentrating on eliminating mosquito breeding areas and informing the public about preventing infection rather than spraying. Statesman.com reports that despite Dallas and Houston’s widespread use of insecticide trucks, Austin prefers the more measured approach.
According to a supervisor in the rodent and vector department of the Austin/Travis County Health and Human Services Department, spraying is much less effective because it stays in the environment for a short time and only kills mosquitoes that come into direct contact with it. It also will only take out adult mosquitoes, but not their larvae. Even worse, insects can become resistance to the chemical and they can pass that resistance on through the generations.
The wet weather this summer, preceded by a warmer than usual winter, has brought mosquitoes out in force in many areas of Texas. North Texas appears to be the center of the activity and has seen hundreds contract West Nile and six die. Dallas County will send fog trucks out to neighborhoods if they see just one infected insect. In their view, the outbreak of “a Third World disease in a 21st century country” demands everything they can do to eradicate it.
The virus has been detected in mosquitoes in 18 ZIP codes in Travis County and the city is using larvicide, which is a brick of extended-release chemicals that focuses on killing larvae before they grow into insects that can bite humans. They decide where to place the larvicide and to spray from what they find out through traps they have laid for mosquitoes.
Austinites should get rid of standing water where mosquitoes can breed, avoid going outside at dusk and dawn because that’s when mosquitoes are most prevalent, spray with insect repellent that contains DEET, keep swimming pools treated and circulating, and keep debris out of ditches and low areas to prevent mosquito infestation.