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New Mosquito Control Effort Targets West Nile Risk

The City of Georgetown and the Williamson County and Cities Health District are collaborating on a new targeted effort to reduce the risk from mosquitos that carry West Nile virus. The new joint initiative is the first of its kind in Williamson County.

Since mid-June, a City of Georgetown employee in transportation services has been collecting mosquitos in traps in several Georgetown locations. The traps are collected twice weekly and the mosquitos are transported by Health District employees to the Texas Department of State Health Services lab in Austin. Mosquitos that are potential carriers of West Nile are analyzed.

So far, no mosquito tests have detected the presence of the virus. The weekly testing will continue through the summer.

The City also is using larvicide disks in drainage ponds and other areas with standing water to kill mosquito larvae before it hatches to the adult insect.

The mosquito trapping and testing program was the result of heightened concern last summer after an increased number of fatalities from West Nile virus in Texas, including one person from Williamson County. Twelve people in Williamson County were hospitalized last year due to West Nile virus infection. Given the heightened concern last year, the Georgetown city council directed City staff to refine the City’s mosquito control program.

Over the past year, employees from the City and the Health District have worked to develop a new approach. In the past, the City’s transportation department used a pesticide sprayer to kill adult mosquitos in public parks and, years ago, in residential areas.

The new mosquito trapping and testing program is targeted to identifying areas with mosquitos that carry the West Nile virus. The approach is based on similar programs in Travis County and Harris County. Employees from the City and the Health District learned from those in Travis County in developing the trapping and testing methods.

If mosquitos from an area were to test positive for the virus, then additional steps can be taken, such as searches for standing water, increased use of larvicides, or additional public information about reducing breeding areas and the risk of exposure. If testing shows significantly increased exposure risk to West Nile virus, then ground-based pesticide fogging or aerial pesticide spraying can be considered.

The new mosquito trapping and testing program by the City and the Health District is only one component in an effective reduction of West Nile virus risk. The most important steps are those that can be taken by each resident.

Everyone can “Fight the Bite” by following the Four-D’s:

  • Dawn and Dusk are the times to try to stay indoors since those are times mosquitoes are most active.
  • Dress in long sleeves and pants when outdoors.
  • Drain standing water in flower pots, pet dishes, or clogged gutters so mosquitos don’t have a place to breed.
  • DEET is an effective bug spray ingredient to apply to clothing.

Eliminating places where mosquitos can breed and reducing the chances of mosquito bites are the best lines of defense against exposure to West Nile virus.

For more information on the mosquito control program in Georgetown, visit the Williamson County and Cities Health District website at www.wcchd.org. For more information on West Nile virus and the response in Texas, go to the Texas Department of State Health Services website at www.dshs.state.tx.us.

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