Dallas County

Let the Chemicals Rain Down: Aerial Spraying for Mosquitoes Now Definitely On the Table

Update at 11:57 a.m.: Dallas County spokeswoman Maria Arita tweeted a response to reports that commissioners are considering aerial spraying.

Original Post: Dallas County is having a record year for West Nile. A seventh person just died from the disease, and the number of cases has reached epidemic levels. Already, the county has been aggressively misting neighborhoods with permethrin, but that's obviously not doing the trick. With the bulk of August ahead of us, when West Nile typically peaks, it's time to up the ante.

Jim yesterday" target="_blank">predicted yesterday that, pretty soon, there would be calls to dump pesticides from airplanes, which turned out to be prescient since that's exactly what the Dallas County Medical Society recommended last night.

DCMS, a consortium of physicians, sort of a local version of the AMA, sent a letter urging Dallas County Medical Director Christopher Perkins to commence aerial spraying.

Their specific recommendations are below but are limited for the time being to "selective adaptation of aerial applications to specific areas with highest numbers of ongoing human cases despite usual ground-based control activities." In other words: You don't have to dump chemicals on the entire county, just swaths of the northern half.

"The public health risks from WNV this season clearly exceed the risks from exposure to mosquito insecticides," DCMS physicians argue in their letter. "The economic cost of aerial spraying needs to be compared to the cost of the continued loss of lives, continued medical intensive care admissions, and the debilitating loss of function that the anticipated numbers of WNV victims [with] encephalitis will suffer from this outbreak."

The goal of sending the letters yesterday was to get the topic discussed at today's Commissioners Court meeting, so we'll see what happens there. I did call Dallas County Health and Human Services Director Zachary Thompson yesterday afternoon before the DCMS letters became public to ask if the county was considering aerial spraying. He asked where I'd heard that, then answered. Sort of.

"What we're considering ... is to continue with education and targeted spraying, and week by week, we'll evaluate where we are."

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Eric Nicholson
Contact: Eric Nicholson