Friday afternoon, Dallas County Health and Human Services confirmed the county's second 2016 death from the West Nile Virus. The victim, whom the county did not name, was in their late 50s and lived in the 75248 zip code in far North Dallas.
Forty-two Dallas County residents have contracted the West Nile Virus so far in 2016, up from just 23 cases last year. As public and media attention has turned from West Nile — which is transmitted to mosquitoes and then humans through infected birds — to the Zika virus, Dallas County officials have emphasized that West Nile is still the county's primary threat.
"As far as we're concerned, the West Nile virus is still public enemy No. 1," DCHHS director Zach Thompson said earlier this summer.
This week, spraying began in northwest Dallas County following a Coppell resident testing positive for the virus, which manifests itself with flu-like symptoms like headaches, muscle pain and fevers. The virus can be fatal, especially for populations with weakened immune systems, like children and senior citizens.
Areas of Rowlett and Sachse in northeast Dallas County and Seagoville in southeast Dallas County are also currently receiving ground spraying.
Last week, the city of Dallas signed off on aerial spraying to fight West Nile and locally transmitted Zika, should DCHHS deem it necessary. Dallas has not received aerial spraying since 2012, when an unprecedented West Nile outbreak infected more than 1,000 and killed 36 in North Texas. Then, as now, environmental concerns were raised about the safety and efficacy of aerial spraying, but Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins and Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings have both insisted that giving DCHHS the authority to aerially spray is necessary.
"I hope we won't have to do this, but we've got this in our tool chest," Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings said of the spraying.