Local health officials taking no chances with West Nile

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by TINA SHIVELY / KVUE News & Photojournalist KENNETH NULL

Bio | Email | Follow: @TinaS_KVUE

kvue.com

Posted on June 7, 2013 at 7:44 AM

Updated Friday, Jun 7 at 1:04 PM

AUSTIN -- After the deadliest year on record for the West Nile virus, Travis County health officials are taking no chances with the growing threat this summer.

So far the City of Austin/Travis County Health and Human Services Department hasn't found any mosquitos that tested positive for West Nile in Travis County, but they are actively looking.

About 30 to 40 traps are put out a week all over the city. The trap is baited with the appropriately named "stinky water," a mixture of alfalfa, yeast and other organic material. A fan draws the bugs into a net. All of the live adult mosquitos are tested for West Nile.

The traps went out earlier than usual this year following 2012's unusually high number of cases. Doctors diagnosed close to 1,900 Texans with West Nile virus last year.

Eda Gowdy is the senior sanitarian with the City of Austin/Travis County Health and Human Services Department. She says you can help keep 2013's West Nile numbers stay low by keeping an eye on your surroundings and emptying any standing water you may find in your neighborhood.

It only takes a teaspoon of water for mosquitos to breed, so something like an uncovered highway barrier is prime real estate.

Gowdy's department came across barriers filled with larvae a few weeks ago and treated them. They were filled with water and were missing their lids. Most of the barriers in one neighborhood off North Lamar have since been covered. They're owned by the city.

To help raise awareness in Travis County, the City of Austin produced a video called "West Nile Watch." It details the "4 D's" to eliminate mosquito breeding areas and reduce your risk of disease.

They are:

  • Dusk and dawn: Whenever possible, avoid prolonged outdoor activity at dawn and dusk when mosquitoes are most active
  • Dress: Wear long-sleeved, loose-fitting, light-colored clothing
  • Drain: Regularly check yards and neighborhoods for water-holding containers and empty them out.
  • Deet: Use mosquito repellent and carefully follow all labeled directions

While Austin health officials don't have hard numbers, they tell KVUE that more than half of the local people who tested positive for West Nile last year admitted that they did not use mosquito repellent.

To view "West Nile Watch," click here.

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