AUSTIN (KXAN) - A new joint initiative between The City of Georgetown and the Williamson County and Cities Health District is the first of its kind in the county.
The targeted effort aims to reduce the risk from mosquitos that carry West Nile virus.
Since mid-June, a City of Georgetown employee in transportation services has been collecting mosquitos in traps in several Georgetown locations. Two times a week, the traps are collected and the mosquitos are analyzed at the Texas Department of State Health Services lab in Austin.
So far, no mosquito tests have detected the presence of the West Nile virus, but testing will continue throughout the summer season.
The mosquito trapping and testing program was the result of heightened concern last summer after an increased number of fatalities from West Nile virus were reported in Texas.
Last year, 1,868 human cases of West Nile illness, including 89 deaths, were reported in the state of Texas and in Williamson County alone, 12 people were hospitalized.
"Last season was unprecedented, with record numbers of cases and deaths reported in Texas," DSHS Commissioner David Lakey said.
On May 24, the Texas Department of State Health Services reported the state's first case of West Nile virus for 2013.
The illness was confirmed in an adult male from Anderson County in East Texas. According to a news release from DSHS, the patient was able to recover from the infection.
In the past, the City of Georgetown's transportation department used a pesticide sprayer to kill adult mosquitos in public parks and residential areas.
The sprayer cost the city thousands of dollars to operate, according to City of Georgetown communications manager Keith Hutchinson.
The six mosquito traps the city is using for the testing initiative cost a total of $450. The Williamson County and Cities Health District is paying for the traps.
The Texas Department of State Health Services lab is covering the cost of the analysis of the mosquitos.
This year, the City of Georgetown is using larvicide disks in drainage ponds and other areas with standing water to kill mosquito larvae before they hatch.
If mosquitos trapped from a certain area were to test positive for the West Nile virus, the City said additional steps, such as searches for standing water and an increased use of larvicides, would be taken.
If testing shows significantly increased exposure risk to West Nile virus, then ground-based pesticide fogging or aerial pesticide spraying will be considered, the City said in a news release.
To protect yourself from exposure mosquitos and to the West Nile virus, follow the four D's:
- Dawn and Dusk are the times to try to stay indoors since those are times mosquitoes are most active.
- Dress in long sleeves and pants when outdoors.
- Drain standing water in flower pots, pet dishes, or clogged gutters so mosquitos don't have a place to breed.
- DEET is an effective bug spray ingredient to apply to clothing.
"West Nile is a serious illness, and people need to do all they can to protect themselves from mosquito bites," DSHS Commissioner David Lakey said.
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