As West Nile virus infections continue to increase in North Texas, the message from mosquito control experts is consistent: Take away their breeding grounds.
"Spraying will kill the adult mosquitoes and that is an element in the equation, but why not stop them at the source?" said David Jefferson, Tarrant County public health environmental manager, stressing the need to eliminate standing water. "That's our big message. We don't want to wait until someone has been bitten and then go stop the mosquito. We want to stop the mosquito from ever being there."
Tarrant County reported that 26 people had contracted West Nile virus as of Friday, 10 more than had it Monday. Dallas County reported that a second person had died from the virus this week, bringing such deaths in the nation to two.
No other fatalities from the disease had been confirmed by state or federal officials.
Dallas officials who reported 16 cases Monday said Friday that they had confirmed 26. The Denton County public health department, which reported 10 cases earlier this week, confirmed 18 Friday.
Two factors could be driving the increase, said Zachary Thompson, director of the Dallas County health and human services department. The medical community in the region is doing a good job diagnosing and reporting the disease to health departments, and ample spring rains and a warmer-than-normal winter brought a bumper crop of mosquitoes this year, he said.
It will be at least two more months and perhaps as late as October or November before this mosquito season ends, Thompson said.
"We cannot spray ourselves out of this situation," Thompson said. "We need to have residents assist us in eliminating mosquito breeding grounds."
Steve Vaughn, Tarrant County district manager for ABC Home and Commercial Services, a pest control and lawn care company, said that his mosquito control calls have been up as much as 25 percent the past few weeks and that many callers are concerned about West Nile virus.
The most effective thing people can do is change their watering habits and eliminate mosquito breeding grounds on their property, Vaughn said. After watering restrictions were relaxed, some people water their lawns every day, he said, but most lawns will stay green if watered twice a week.
"Mosquitoes are like anything else; they have an agenda in life," he said. "If it holds water, you're breeding mosquitoes. ... We'd love to sell people something to take care of them, but if you can just take care of the standing water it will help cut down the mosquito population immensely."
Mitch Mitchell, 817-390-7752