by Mark K. Campbell
Tarrant and Parker Counties take different approaches to West Nile Virus (WNV).
After 2012’s record-setting outbreak in the Metroplex – three counties, Dallas (375), Denton (180), and Tarrant (253) accounted for 808 of the reported 1,700 cases statewide – Azle joined a Tarrant County initiative to combat WNV.
The next largest tally was Travis County (Austin) with 134.
Parker County reported just five cases last year.
This year, Tarrant County is acting aggressively to head off any potential return to those high numbers. Mosquito traps are regularly being set throughout the area including locations in Azle.
Parker, which has no county health department, sets no traps, relying on educating residents to thwart WNV.
Azle Parks and Recreation director Kyle Culwell oversees the West Nile Virus program in town and the city web site – www.cityofazle.org – offers a downloadable brochure filled with information and prevention/protection data.
The town participates in the West Nile Virus Mosquito Surveillance and Response Program.
Weekly beginning this month, mosquito traps have been set throughout Azle, collected, then sent to Tarrant County Public Health in Fort Worth to be analyzed.
Culwell said the placement of traps is done via residents who volunteer their properties.
“It’s different each week,” he said. “We have different locations throughout the city.”
Five years ago, one of those locations, on Cross Timber Golf Course, tested positive, he said. All other tests since have been negative.
However, in 2012, a man in unincorporated Tarrant County was treated by an Azle doctor for the disease.
While Culwell notes that media exposure has raised the WNV alarm, the threat of serious illness or death is actually very low.
Still, in Texas 89 fatalities were reported in 2012. The highest number prior was 17 in 2007.
Culwell notes that contracting the disease is concerning mainly to two specific age groups – youth and those over 50.
“It’s a serious virus and needs to be taken seriously and we address it accordingly,” he said.
Azle’s Tarrant residents who want to become part of the volunteer trap program can contact him at 817-444-7127.
Parker County emergency preparedness information officer Joel Kertok said that the county does not set any traps over its 900 square miles of countryside.
He recommends residents follow the suggested prevention measures and said purchasing “dunks” – round larvaecides – and placing them in standing water would provide a substantial degree of protection.
“If there is standing water, put it in there and it will kill the larvae,” Kertok said.
The city of Azle offers Altoside for sale, a briquette that stops mosquitoes from breeding. They are $1 each and are available at 603 Southeast Parkway.
In 2012, every county around Parker had “West Nile activity,” according to a map at the Texas Department of State Health Services website (www.dshs.state.tx.us).
Both Culwell and Kertok said the “Four D’s” of prevention are essential: DEET, dress, dusk/dawn, and drain.
Use repellents that contain DEET, picaridin, or oil of lemon eucalyptus. Apply to clothing or skin.
Another option is permethrin, but it should be put on clothing only.
Dress in long sleeves and long pants when outside.
Avoid going outdoors at dawn or dusk when infected mosquitoes are most active.
Drain any standing water and check for unique sites like flowerpots and clogged gutters.
Your chances of getting WNV are extremely slim, even if you are bitten. Less than one percent of those bitten will become severely ill.
In fact, just one in 150 infected people will develop severe symptoms.
Most infected people never have any signs or symptoms and recover on their own.
Twenty percent will experience mild symptoms like body aches, swollen lymph glands, and a body rash – most mirror flu-like symptoms.
A severe infection of West Nile neuroinvasive disease includes symptoms like headache, high fever, neck stiffness, stupor, disorientation, tremors, convulsions, muscle weakness, and paralysis.
No vaccine exists for WNV, but several companies are working on it, according to the state web site.
Dogs, cats, horses, and some birds are among the animals that can contract the disease, too. However, they rarely get sick from it.
WNV comes from birds. Mosquitoes feed on infected birds then pass it on to humans and animals.
Having purple martin houses or bat houses have little effect on the mosquito population. Martins eat mainly during the day when mosquitoes are seldom out. And bats prefer moths and June bugs.
Mosquitoes can lay up to 300 eggs every three nights.
Culwell said Azle will participate in the response program until the end of the mosquito season, usually in the fall.
Kertok encouraged Parker County residents to be vigilant and take active preventative and protection measures. “We leave it up to the individual,” he said.