The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Local News

August 16, 2012

No West Nile virus reports locally, but officials say caution prudent

JOPLIN, Mo. — The mayor of Dallas, the ninth largest U.S. city, declared a state of emergency Wednesday to combat the spread of West Nile virus, which has been prevalent in Texas and other states this year.

And, for the first time in four decades, Dallas officials were planning to drop insecticide from the air to address the problem.

More cases of West Nile virus have been reported so far this year than in any year since the disease was first detected in this country in 1999, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

But that’s not been the case in Joplin or Jasper County, said Ryan Talken, with the Joplin Health Department.

“This is West Nile season,” he said. “But, so far, we have not had any reports.”

The last probable case of West Nile virus in Jasper County was reported in 2008. The year before that, there were five, one of the most active years on record locally.

Talken said infections related to West Nile virus have proved to be cyclical.

“There is no reason as to why or what causes a spike in cases,” he said.

Mosquitoes, which develop as larvae in water, carry the virus. The drought of the past two years might have reduced the availability of mosquito breeding sites and, in turn, infections in humans.

The concern now is man-made breeding sites, Talken said.

“If you have standing water on your property, get rid of it,” he said.

“Our main concern right now is backyard pools. When it becomes super hot, people lose interest in their pools. They let them sit, and they become man-made breeding sites for mosquitoes. People should either maintain them or drain them.”

Larvicides can be purchased at stores such as Home Depot and Lowe’s, Talken said.

“The most cost-effective and efficient way to deal with West Nile virus is to kill them before they hatch,” he said.

The city used larvicides in public areas earlier this year in hopes “of getting ahead of the game,” Talken said. “We do fogging based on complaints. There has been a minimum amount of that this year.”

The city fogged in the tornado zone when it was rainy earlier this year because of the large number of water-holding depressions in the ground where foundations once existed. Other sites for fogging have been parks and ball fields where people spend time outside.

Fogging routes are posted on the city of Joplin website, www.joplinmo.org. Notices also are posted on the Health Department’s Facebook page.

Mosquitoes can breed in as little as one teaspoonful of water. A mosquito needs 10 days to hatch into an adult.

People can take the following steps to protect themselves from mosquito bites.

• Stay indoors at dawn and dusk, when mosquitoes are most active.

• Wear long-sleeved shirts, socks and long pants outdoors.

• Use an approved insect repellent, and talk to a health care provider before applying insect repellents to young children.

• Make sure your window screens fit tightly and are free of holes.

West Nile virus is transmitted when a mosquito bites an infected bird and then bites a person, animal or another bird.

Most people who are infected will not get sick. A few may have mild symptoms such as a fever, headache or body aches. Less than 1 percent of those infected become ill and die. Most serious illnesses occur in people over age 50.

Numbers

NEARLY HALF of the 693 human cases West Nile virus reported this year to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have been in Texas. There were 26 confirmed deaths nationwide as of Tuesday, according to the CDC.

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