With more than 1,000 cases and 43 deaths, Texas health officials say 2012 is officially the worst year in the state's history for the West Nile disease. The virus is not only growing in the number of cases, but it's spreading, too.
For the past five months, the city of Marshall had been spraying for mosquitoes, once a month. The method seemed to be working. While major cities like Dallas and Ft. Worth battled an increase of the virus, many East Texas counties had zero reports. But in the past few weeks, that's changed. And so has the city's attack plan.
"Now we're covering every location," said J.C. Hughes, the Public Works Director for the city of Marshall. "(We spray) the parking lots, the schools, and in apartment complex locations; shopping centers and malls and locations like that twice a month now."
Hughes says the city has doubled efforts to combat mosquitoes. This, as the West Nile virus creeps into East Texas."We really strongly suggest people using common sense and prevention," said Hughes. "But with Texas being the hot spot and Dallas being the hot spot in Texas and that spreading eastward, it's in the back of our minds everyday so we're concerned about it."
A dozen East Texas counties have recently reported West Nile cases, including three cases in Harrison County. And neighboring Gregg and Panola counties have reported several more cases and one death each. The city hopes, in addition to increased spraying, prevention will also help combat the disease. The city is sending out flyers with tips on protection against mosquitoes with water bills this month.
"We're hoping with education and notification that will help a bit and we'll continue doing whatever spraying we need to do."
Marshall city officials say they'll continue with their heightened spraying and may look into other options, such as aerial spraying, if cases continue to grow. Currently Texas has reported 1,066 cases of West Nile and 43 deaths. The previous worst year was in 2003, when the state saw 439 cases and 40 deaths. About 45 percent of all cases reported nationwide, have been reported from Texas.