Harris County Public Health & Environmental Services (HCPHES) Mosquito Control has scheduled an aerial spray operation for portions of west and northwest Harris County to
combat a recent West Nile outbreak in the area. The aerial application will occur Wednesday evening, Aug. 22. The plan is to spray approximately 63,000 acres by air, weather permitting.
Vector Disease Control will conduct the operation, using the insecticide dibrom. Harris County officials say that dibrom is routinely used to fight mosquito infestations and is considered safe. However health officials do advise that residents remain indoors during the operation, to guard against any adversse effects.
Harris County officials said that West Nile has been confirmed in more than 300 mosquito samples and nearly 100 dead birds in the area.
“Harris County is experiencing an increase of West Nile Virus infection in mosquitoes and, most notably, in the dead bird population. This situation has prompted the need to supplement the ongoing countywide ground treatment with aerial treatment in the designated areas to better protect the health of our residents,” Dr. Rudy Bueno, Director of HCPHES Mosquito Control said.
The aerial spray comes on the heels of the second and third confirmed death from West Nile in Harris County and on a Centers for Disease Control report saying that this year's outbreak is the largest in the nation's history.
U.S. health officials reported Wednesday three times the usual number of West Nile cases for this time of year and one expert called it "one of the largest" outbreaks since the virus appeared in this country in 1999.
So far, 1,118 illnesses have been reported, about half of them in Texas, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In an average year, fewer than 300 cases are reported by mid-August. There have also been 41 deaths this year.
"We're in the midst of one of the largest West Nile outbreaks ever seen in the United States," said Dr. Lyle Petersen, a CDC official.
Never before have so many illnesses been reported this early, said Petersen, who oversees the CDC's mosquito-borne illness programs.
Most infections are usually reported in August and September, so it's too early to say how bad this year will end up, CDC officials said.
Only about one in five infected people get sick. One in 150 infected people will develop severe symptoms including neck stiffness, disorientation, coma and paralysis.
The best way to prevent West Nile disease is to avoid mosquito bites. Insect repellents, screens on doors and windows and wearing long sleeves and pants are some of the recommended strategies. Also, empty standing water from buckets, kiddie pools and other places to discourage breeding.
Associated Press medical writer Mike Stobbe contributed to this report.
Copyright 2012 The Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. AP contributed to this report.