As the West Nile virus continues to plague the Lone State State, Houston officials will mount an aerial attack on the city's mosquito population Wednesday night. In the past several weeks, three Houstonians have died from the deadly virus, bringing the statewide number to 19.
Starting at 8:30 p.m., airplane pilots contracted by the Harris County Public Health & Environmental Services (HCPHES) will spray an EPA-approved insecticide called Dibrom across 63,000 acres of northwest Houston — an approach the department has used on harder-to-reach parts of the city since 2002.
Residents living in these affected northwest areas are asked to remain indoors during Wednesday's nighttime spraying.
"We started conducting ground regular sprays in early June right after the first cases of the virus were detected," HCPHES spokesperson Martha Marquez tells CultureMap. "These aerial efforts are supplemental and aimed at areas with dense vegetation that have fewer access points for our spray trucks."
Residents living in these northwest areas (see map to the right) are asked to remain indoors during Wednesday's spraying. The public health department also recommends bringing pets inside as well.
In a statement Tuesday, HCPHES mosquito control director Dr. Rudy Bueno noted a recent increase of the virus, which has been found in more than 300 mosquito samples and nearly 100 dead birds in Harris County.
News of the rise in West Nile comes just days after a well-publicized aerial spray in Dallas county, where a reported 200 cases have led to a total of 10 deaths.
As far as recognizing symptoms of the virus in human, Marquez explains the patients typically experience what they might suspect is a run-of-the-mill flu. "The most common complaints are high fevers, mild disorientation and body aches."
According to the county public health department, people over 50 and those with weaker immune systems are at an increased risk, although anyone can contract the virus. Lucky, less than one percent of those bitten will become infected. Health officials suggests that people use insect repellent containing DEET, Picaridin or oil of lemon eucalyptus. Long-sleeved shirts and long pants are recommended when mosquitos are most active at dawn and dusk.
"Right now, we're asking people to remove standing water on their property or near their homes," Marquez says. "It's things like buckets and flower pots that hold the kind of dirty and stagnant water mosquitos love for reproducing."