ARLINGTON -- After a record number of Arlington residents were sickened with the West Nile Virus last year, Fire Chief Don Crowson told council members Tuesday that the city would launch its attack against the mosquito population much earlier this year.
Between July and September last year, 64 people in Arlington reportedly contracted West Nile Virus, according to Tarrant County Public Health. One Arlington resident, an elderly man with underlying health conditions, died.
Overall, the county recorded an unprecedented 280 West Nile Virus cases and 11 deaths in 2012.
"North Texas was the epicenter of the West Nile Virus experience in the country," Crowson said.
To avoid a repeat this season, starting in May Arlington will begin trapping and testing mosquitoes to identify West Nile Virus hot spots and start applying larvicide to standing water, such as streams and ponds, on public property. The city waited until the summer last year to begin applying larvicide to help control the mosquito population, Crowson said.
"We think being early and proactive is key," Crowson said. "We're trying to stop it from becoming an emergency this year."
Arlington expects to set out between 30 and 40 mosquito traps across the city through October to monitor the mosquito population weekly and determine where laravacide, and possibly even ground spraying, needs to be implemented.
City officials say they are hopeful that the colder winter will mean fewer mosquitoes this year.
Arlington experienced 27 freezes this past winter, compared with 14 freezes the winter before, Crowson said.
Arlington City Councilman Jimmy Bennett said many people were surprised by the intensity of the West Nile Virus outbreak in North Texas in 2012.
"It makes sense why we were more vulnerable last year. The conditions were such that the mosquitoes were able to thrive, and they did. Hopefully with earlier planning and weather conditions being less favorable for mosquito development, then perhaps we will be in better shape this year."
Arlington will also continue an aggressive public education campaign to help residents avoid the risk of mosquito bites.
Residents are encouraged to stay indoors at dusk and dawn, dress in long sleeves and pants, use insect repellent and drain standing water on their property.
Tarrant County Public Health also announced that it will begin trapping and testing mosquitoes for the virus starting in April or May instead of June.
The county, which expects to spend more than $500,000 over the next two years to help fight the virus, also said that it will add 150 fixed-location and 50 portable mosquito traps this year, up from the 30 to 50 traps relied upon last year.
It will also add two ground-spraying trucks, devices to test mosquito pools for the virus and two employees who will be dedicated to addressing the public health threat.
This report contains material from the Star-Telegram archives.
Susan Schrock, 817-709-7578