There's a health hazard that you can't always avoid. We're talking about the threat of diseases carried by mosquitoes. An unseasonably wet summer has health experts concerned.
No corners are cut when it comes to mosquito control in Nacogdoches. Nothing gets in the way of using larvacide or insecticide on a regular basis other than the rain. "One problem we have with rain is it interrupts our schedule, but we're continuing to spray normally four nights a week," said Environmental Health Manager Tommy Wheeler.
Not all cities prioritize mosquito control in this way, but overall the state's mosquito expert, Roy Burton, a Texas Department of Health entomologist is pleased that Texas isn't taking the threat of mosquito bearing diseases lightly.
"Texas has been very aggressive in addressing it when you compare some of the other states because we had the infrastructure in place that some of the other states didn't have. We've been testing mosquitos for virus way before West Nile Virus. Some states had absolutely no capability and they had to start from scratch."
Nacogdoches is so far along that testing for West Nile Virus can be done on sight, eliminating a six week waiting period for test results. Despite the advances, all the effort is for nothing if citizens don't do their part in controlling mosquito populations.
Wheeler said, "99% of the property where mosquitos breed is on private property and that's where it starts and that's where it needs to be eliminated."
Homeowners are encouraged to prevent water from standing for more than four days. Around your house be sure to empty any containers that hold stagnant water, such as birdbaths, pet water bowls, and old tires.
There are also safety precautions that can help you protect yourself such as avoiding dusk and dawn when mosquitos are most active. If you are outside during those hours, dress appropriately by wearing long sleeves and long pants. And if your skin is exposed, use insect repellent that contains Deet. But be sure to read the label to make sure the repellent is age appropriate for your children.
By now all Texans are familiar with West Nile Virus, but mosquitos also carry St. Louis encephalitis, Western and Eastern equine encephalitis, and down in the Valley, there's also something called dingy fever.
Now U.S. officials are on the lookout for a new mosquito virus that's even more deadly than the West Nile Virus. The "Rift Valley Fever" is at the top of both human health and agriculture lists of dangerous diseases. Fortunately, it has not yet shown up in the U.S.
Burton knows the question in Texans' minds. "Will it be here in Texas? We don't know. They didn't think West Nile Virus would show up here and here it is, so West Nile Virus is not going to be the last virus introduced into the United States. We live in a shrinking world. You can go to any airport and you can be anywhere in the world in just a matter of minutes. Who knows how it's going to get here. How did West Nile Virus get here? They still don't know."