But this year has been different as the news of West Nile cases and deaths continues to rise, particularly in the Dallas area.
It is cause for concern, but not panic according to Glenn Stokes, owner/CEO of Mosquito Control Contractors, Inc.
“Acadia is in good hands,” he said.
Stokes explained that the parish has a contract with Clarke Air Spray of Illinois, the same company that is being used in Dallas, to use at a moment’s notice if an area of 5,000 acres or more are determined to be mosquito hot spots.
“The police jury has been very proactive, when the new jury took over they came to me in January so we could have a plan,” said Stokes.
And a plan has been put in place, complete with an aerial spray on standby within 24 hours of being called and ground spraying every day. The parish also continues to monitor the mosquito population and be studied every day as well. Acadia is also one of only 33 of the 64 parishes in the only state to be monitoring mosquitoes at this time.
West Nile has been pushed more into the news this year thanks to a new strain and a large outbreak, so large, that Stokes believes the number of cases will be second only to 2002.
When it first came onto the scene in 2002, West Nile was a new disease that no one or no animal had built up an immunity to yet. That led to a record number of cases.
“People were not prepared for it,” said Stokes.
After the initial outbreak, though, the number of cases saw decreases, with a slight increase in 2006.
This year, however, has been different, and scientists at Louisiana State University say the West Nile virus is a new strain this year, indicating that a mutation has occurred in the virus similar to annual mutations in the flu virus.
“More dead birds are being reported everywhere which could mean that the birds are more susceptible to this strain or that this strain is more severe,” said Stokes. “But we don’t know if that is the case or not because research comparing the strains would have to be done.”
With only 11 years of the virus so far, much remains unknown about the virus, but what scientists know is that it only takes one mosquito bite to become infected, making precaution paramount.
First, Stokes reminds parish residents that the only way to contract the West Nile virus is through a mosquito bite, a blood transfusion or organ donation, making blood testing important in those situations.
Second, for most (roughly 88 percent), West Nile is asymptomatic, meaning those who have contracted the virus will not know so unless they are tested for it.
In the more severe cases is the feverish symptoms, which happens in 10 percent of cases.
The most severe occurs in about 2 percent of cases and is neuroinvasive.
And the typical susceptible age groups of zero to six-month-olds and those 55 years old or older are the most at risk for contracting one of the worst two forms of West Nile.
Thus Stokes once again voiced the importance of the Five D’s–drainage, dusk, dawn, dress accordingly and DEET.
Stokes also offered up tips when thinking about the Five D’s. For example, anything inside and outside the home that can hold water, will and mosquitoes can breed in both locations. Also, when applying insect repellent to children, of whom up to 20 percent DEET is acceptable, spray the repellent into your own hands and rub it onto the child.
Finally, its important to remember that West Nile will continue to be a problem so long as there are mosquitoes around, meaning we are in the peak months (August and September) and West Nile could continue to be problematic until November.
So far this year 43 states have mosquitoes that have tested positive for West Nile, with Texas being the epicenter.
In the Dallas area alone, the outbreak has grown to include 230 infections and 10 deaths, equally half of total in Texas. Both the city and county of Dallas have declared a state of an emergency.
Texas, due to the declaration, is picking up the $500,000 bill for aerial sprays over the city to try and combat the outbreak.
And while it has the same effect as the ground spraying (i.e. lasting only 24 hours), it is an important first step.
Stokes also warns though that aerial sprays still leave heavily treed areas, carport areas, etc. vulnerable, because an aerial spray will not affect them, but combined with ground spraying, it can and does help in circumstances like in Dallas.