August 13, 2012

Second West Nile death reported in Tarrant County

A 10th death is reported in Dallas County, where aerial spraying is debated.

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FORT WORTH -- A Fort Worth resident in his 80s with underlying medical conditions has died of illness caused by West Nile virus, the second such fatality in Tarrant County this year, public health officials reported late Monday.

In Dallas County, a 10th death related to the virus was reported.

Tarrant County has 159 confirmed human cases of the virus, a higher rate per capita than Dallas County, where 190 human cases have been reported.

Tarrant County commissioners are scheduled to hear an update on the virus at their meeting today.

Last week Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins declared a public health emergency because of the outbreak, which allows the county to seek a disaster declaration from the state while also requesting resources to help control the virus.

Ground spraying for mosquitoes was to begin Monday night in the northern part of Dallas County, where most infections have been reported. The city of Dallas has been ground-spraying since June. County and city officials continue to debate aerial spraying.

In Tarrant County, cities including Benbrook, Euless, Grand Prairie, Hurst, North Richland Hills and Westover Hills are doing limited ground spraying to kill mosquitoes.


"The real message here is that people need to think about taking preventive measures every time they go outside," said Kyle Taylor, emergency management coordinator for Tarrant County Public Health.

Tarrant County's first West Nile-related death was a Euless woman in her 60s who had other health conditions, officials said.

There are two forms of illness caused by the West Nile virus. The milder West Nile fever causes flu-like symptoms such as headache, tiredness and body aches with possibly skin rashes or swollen lymph nodes. The more serious illnesses are neuroinvasive infections including meningitis and encephalitis. Those symptoms include disorientation, stupor, tremors, convulsions and muscle weakness.

Young children, elderly people and people with compromised immune systems are most vulnerable.

Health officials urge people to stay indoors at dawn and dusk, to use a mosquito repellent with DEET if they go outside, and to drain standing water on their property.

In Arlington, 39 West Nile cases had been reported by Monday. Most of the cases have been in central and west central Arlington, Fire Chief Don Crowson told City Council members last week.

City workers have been applying mosquito larvicides in standing water as necessary and have distributed fliers notifying residents within a half-mile of reported cases to take precautions, he said.

Spraying is not Arlington's first line of defense against the mosquitoes, but the city could consider it "in a targeted way," Crowson said.

Generally, public health officials agree that spraying is not the most effective way to tackle the problem because mosquitoes breed so quickly, Crowson told council members.

"Spraying is a one-time event. Within a couple of days, you have the issue occurring again," Crowson said.

In Northeast Tarrant County, Southlake and Grapevine are offering free larvicide briquettes.

They are available at the Southlake Community Center, 400 N. White Chapel Blvd, or the Public Works Operations center, 1950 E. Continental Blvd. Grapevine offers two free briquettes per household at the Parks and Recreation office in City Hall, 200 S. Main St., and the Grapevine Community Activities Center, 1175 Municipal Way.

"The briquettes effectively eliminate mosquito larvae," said Bob Price, Southlake's public works director. "They are especially efficient for landscaping areas where irrigation watering can sometimes pool and become standing water."

Per capita comparison

The West Nile problem is proportionately worse in Tarrant County than in Dallas County, according to a Star-Telegram analysis using the most recent available data.

On Monday, Tarrant reported 159 West Nile cases. Dallas County reported 190 cases, a difference of 31.

Based on 2011 U.S. Census estimates, for every 100,000 people in Dallas County, there are 7.86 reported cases of West Nile.

In Tarrant, the rate is higher -- 8.60, or 0.73 more cases per 100,000 people.

Dallas County has about 2.4 million people, and Tarrant 1.8 million.

County Dallas Tarrant
Cases 190 159
Est. pop. 2011 2.4 million 1.8 million
Cases per 100,000 7.86 8.59

Sources: Dallas and Tarrant county health departments, U.S. Census Bureau

Staff writers Darren Barbee, Nicholas Sakelaris and Susan Schrock contributed to this report.

Patrick M. Walker,


Twitter: @patrickmwalker1

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