The West Nile virus has been spreading rapidly in Texas this summer in one of the worst outbreaks since the virus was first identified in the United States in 1999, but now the Lone Star State is striking back.
Officials in Dallas County, Texas have begun aerial spraying of insecticides aimed at killing the mosquitoes that carry the West Nile virus, HealthDay reported. Dallas County had been one of the hardest-hit areas, with 10 deaths and hundreds of cases of the illness reported so far this summer. Across the entire state, there have been 465 total cases and 17 deaths.
The overnight spraying started near Dallas on Thursday night and early Friday morning, with another round of spraying taking place on Friday. In order to approve the spraying, Dallas mayor Mike Rawlings had to declare a state of emergency.
Texas is not the only area hit by the West Nile virus. Cases have been reported throughout the Gulf states of Louisiana and Mississippi. Oklahoma has also reported several cases of the virus.
Health officials said it is difficult to know why this has become the worst year for outbreaks since 2004.
“That’s impacted by a number of factors, environmental factors like weather, heat, precipitation, the birds that are around to amplify the virus and maintain it, the mosquitoes that spread the virus, and human behavior,” Dr. Marc Fischer, a medical epidemiologist with the CDC’s Arboviral Diseases Branch in Fort Collins, Colorado, told HealthDay.
The West Nile virus spraying in Dallas hit a snag over the weekend, the Associated Press reported. Storms forced crews to remain on the ground for Saturday, though the work was set to resume on Sunday evening.