Aerial mosquito spraying not uncommon in greater Houston area

August 17, 2012 2:41:06 PM PDT
They're gearing up another aerial assault in Dallas County to fight the West Nile virus and kill the mosquitoes that carry it.

Two planes went up Thursday night for the first round of spraying pesticide. The Dallas area is the epicenter of the current epidemic with 200 reported cases of West Nile and at least 10 deaths.

Hundreds of people have signed an online petition to stop the spraying over concerns about the chemicals being used. In our area, aerial spraying is done in Brazoria County and several surrounding counties for aerial spraying. Officials tell us planes are the most effective when it comes to covering large areas.

"The people of Brazoria County expect the airplane," said Brazoria County Mosquito Control Director Jim Ryan.

In southeast Texas, where combatting mosquitos is way of life, ground and, in some counties, aerial spraying is routine this time of year.

"All of our work is on an as needed basis," Ryan explained. "It's when we need to spray based on all the other surveillance factors."

According to Ryan, Galveston, Jefferson, Orange and Brazoria counties all use planes to spray insecticide. He says in Brazoria County, spraying always takes place early in the morning or late in the evening.

"Trucks are part of the program," Ryan said. "They have opportunities to do things where the airplane can't go or doesn't serve well. The airplane serves a lot of areas where the trucks can't go."

According to Dr. Rudy Bueno with Harris County Mosquito Control, 2002 was the worst year for Harris County, when the county saw the initial outbreak of the West Nile virus. Since then, aerial spraying has been conducted at least once a year. In 2008, after Hurricane Ike, the county used aerial spraying the most.

"It started in 2002, and ever since then we've been spraying at least one time per season, so there has been times like in 2005, 2006 we sprayed two or three times a season," Dr. Bueno said.

In Dallas, where the West Nile virus has been by far the worst this year, there is growing concern over what chemicals are being dropped from the sky. Dr. Bueno says the solution is not much different than any other insecticide that's being used on the ground. And there is really no serious threat to the public's health.

"We do ask resident that while were conducting that or the contractor is conducting that if they want to go into their home just as a precautionary measure," Ryan said. "But It's not any different than the insecticide we spray in the truck."

So far in Harris County, the amount of West Nile cases just jumped to 12 on Friday. One person in Harris County has died.

In surrounding counties, a few cases have been reported but no deaths have been reported. So far this year Harris County has not used aerial spraying but we're not out of the woods yet.

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