West Nile Virus Runs High This Year

Dallas County officials declared a public health emergency after an outbreak of West Nile Virus infected 175 people and killed nine of them. Houston health officials say the virus is unusually active this year.

West Nile Virus was first documented in Harris County just ten years ago.

Public health officials have been monitoring it ever since.

Dr. Rudy Bueno is Harris County's Director of Mosquito Control. He says they've documented 279 positive mosquito samples, 59 bird deaths and three human infections, including one death, this year.

"Starting around the first part of May or so through October, we do surveillance where we trap in 268 areas in the county and we test those samples week in and week out. And when we find the virus we go to that area where we found it and we spray."

The hot spots are mostly in the 610 Inner Loop area, along the I-10 corridor and a few other clusters. Dr. Bueno says the mosquito that carries the virus is called the Southern House Mosquito, and prefers urban areas.

"People like to water the yards and there's a lot of water that collects in the containers. There's also approximately 1,000 miles worth of storm sewer piping there in the Inner Loop and these mosquitoes thrive in the storm sewers. Matter of fact, about half of our traps that we set are in storm sewers."

Dr. Bueno says he's not worried that Harris County will see the kind of outbreak that's taking place in Dallas County. But he says Houstonians should make sure they don't have standing water on their property and use repellent with DEET when they spend time outdoors.

Bio photo of Laurie Johnson

Laurie Johnson

Local Host, All Things Considered

Laurie Johnson is the Houston host for All Things Considered at KUHF NPR for Houston. Before taking the anchor chair, she worked as a general assignments reporter at KUHF, starting there as an intern in 2002...