As Dallas County wrapped up its aerial assault on mosquitoes spreading the West Nile virus, officials across North Texas were continuing the fight on the ground with spraying from vehicles and dumping insecticide in creeks, drainage ditches and ponds.
As of Thursday, Tarrant County had reported 227 cases and four deaths. Dallas County, as of Wednesday, had reported 278 cases and 11 deaths. The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said this week that the country is in the midst of one of the largest outbreaks on record.
Ground spraying was scheduled to continue in Bedford, Euless, Fort Worth, Haltom City, Hurst, Mansfield, North Richland Hills and Roanoke; other cities like Cleburne, Keller, Trophy Club, Weatherford and Westlake are offering other methods to fight the mosquitoes.
Arlington officials, however, expressed some hope that what had been done so far was beginning to have an impact.
With only three new human cases of West Nile virus reported far this week, the city postponed a decision until Tuesday on continuing with ground spraying. Thirteen human cases were reported the week before, which led to three consecutive days of spraying around Jake Langston Park, Arlington Municipal Airport and Doug Russell Park. Arlington has reported 51 cases total, officials said.
"This has been the best week so far," Fire Chief Don Crowson said Thursday of this week's new cases, the fewest since mid-July. "One week is not indicative of a downward trend, but it is a good sign."
Hitting the streets
In far north Fort Worth, beginning today, contractors will spray about 40 miles of streets in parts of the 76137 ZIP code. Weather permitting, ground spraying will occur from 10 p.m. to 4 a.m. Friday, Saturday and Sunday, officials said.
Mansfield will start spraying Sunday. Weather permitting, five areas will be sprayed from 9 p.m. to 5 a.m. Sunday through Tuesday, including downtown, the Remington Ranch/Fox Glen/Vinewood area off South Main Street, Kings Mill, Heritage Estates and Tanglewood Estates.
In Benbrook, crews were scheduled to spray for mosquitoes Thursday night through Friday morning within a half-mile of the 8100 block of Chapin Road, according to the city's website.
Bedford sprayed select areas this week and will continue to spray for mosquitoes when and where sampling shows it to be necessary. The city sprayed Thursday from Central Drive to the eastern city limit and from Harwood Road north to Cheek Sparger Road. Also, the area east of Texas 121 between Bedford Road and Harwood Road, to the eastern city limit was sprayed, an official said.
Prime breeding grounds
Euless will spray half the city -- the part north of Airport Freeway -- for three consecutive nights starting Sunday. The area south of Airport Freeway will be sprayed for three nights the following week, a city spokeswoman said.
Haltom City will start spraying next week and ultimately cover the entire city, City Manager Tom Muir said. Three nights of spraying should begin Tuesday evening for the area south of Broadway Avenue, followed by three nights of spraying that start Sept. 4 for the area north of Glenview Drive.
The center of the city will be sprayed for three nights beginning Sept. 11.
Hurst continually treats "areas prime for mosquito breeding" and if county health officials tells the city of a human West Nile virus case, the city fogs within a half-mile of the person's address, city spokeswoman Ashleigh Whiteman said.
"We also respond to areas of concern voiced from residents and treat those on a case-by-case basis. Vacant pools, foreclosures and areas of high water are monitored by code enforcement daily and treated with larvicide," Whiteman said.
North Richland Hills is expanding ground level mosquito spraying to all areas of the city.
Until this week, the city was treating targeted areas where West Nile virus had been confirmed and where there were high mosquito concentrations (creeks, drainage channels, ponds and greenbelts), and where residents requested spraying.
"In recent weeks, the number of targeted areas has increased to a point where it now makes sense to go ahead and spray all of the city," said North Richland Hills spokeswoman Mary Peters.
North Richland Hills started spraying between 8:30 p.m. and 6 a.m. Thursday in its northernmost area. Weather permitting, spraying — by professionals using an EPA-approved pesticide — will continue nightly throughout the weekend until all areas have been covered, said Jimmy Cates, public works operations manager.
“Depending on the effectiveness, we’ll probably come back with another pass through the city,” he said. “We’ll just start over immediately and cover the entire city.”
The Dallas County Health and Human Services Department has conducted ground and aerial spraying for West Nile. The last scheduled aerial spraying was to be from 9 p.m. Thursday to 2 a.m. today.
On Wednesday, Denton County Judge Mary Horn declared a public health emergency and requested state and federal aid for aerial spraying. The county has recorded at least 105 human cases and one death.
On Thursday night, the Flower Mound City Council voted unanimously to participate in the Denton County aerial spraying. Eighteen human cases have been reported in Flower Mound, according to a city news release.
Not all cities are spraying to combat mosquitoes.
On Tuesday, the Weatherford City Council approved the purchase of briquettes that can be placed in standing water to control the mosquito population up to 30 days.
People with proof of residency will be able obtain two free briquettes at City Hall or at a fire station.
Keller, Trophy Club and Westlake are treating stagnant water with larvicide. Trophy Club also is offering each household two free larvicide briquettes, which also are available at hardware stores.
Cleburne Mayor Scott Cain said the city has had one confirmed case and is not spraying, but he said it is monitoring the situation. He added that Cleburne is going to foreclosed properties and emptying stagnant water from swimming pools while employees are putting "mosquito dunks" in the water to kill larvae.
With most area schools set to open on Monday, school district officials have been monitoring the West Nile situation closely and have been searching their campuses for places where there is standing water where mosquitoes can breed.
Several districts have posted information on West Nile prevention on their websites and social media outlets. Athletic coaches and band directors have also have given information to students involved in outdoor activities about how to protect themselves against getting the virus.
Fort Worth school district officials plan to ask trustees for a policy waiver to let students bring repellent to school if the crisis gets worse. Administrators will ask the school board Tuesday to allow the superintendent to make a decision on the use of insect repellent. Current policy requires nonprescription medicine to be administered by a school employee.
Jessamy Brown, Elizabeth Campbell, Susan McFarland and Lance Winter contributed to this report, which includes material from the Star-Telegram archives.
Susan Schrock, 817-709-7578
Terry Evans, 817-390-7620
View Tarrant County West Nile Virus update in a larger map