West Nile virus hits Texas hardest of all

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West Nile virus has reached a state of emergency in Dallas County, Texas this summer. Thus far, the area has seen 200 cases of human infection and 10 deaths from the mosquito-borne virus now endemic to the U.S. And while the infection rate is the worst in Texas, the CDC reports 693 cases of West Nile virus nationwide. No other state besides Louisiana, however, reported more than one death from the disease.

Because the virus has made such inroads in his county, the mayor of Dallas has at last authorized aerial spraying of pesticide in the city for the first time since a major encephalitis outbreak in 1966. The spraying is a necessary measure, and one that should have been taken earlier, given the region s early spring and hot summer this year conditions that are quite favorable to mosquitoes. Unfortunately, many residents are expressing concern about the pesticide spraying, going so far as to petition Dallas officials to stop the measure, which they believe is ineffective, unsafe, and harmful to insects such as honeybees and ladybugs.

Such backlash is ridiculous, says ACSH s Dr. Josh Bloom. This particular pesticide, Duet, has been approved by the federal EPA for both ground and aerial use in outdoor residential and recreational areas.

And as we ve noted at other times in Dispatch, pesticide spraying to counter mosquito-borne illness, be it malaria or West Nile virus, has an impressive record of success and safety.