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Aerial Mosquito Spraying On Fast Track

David Hill
(cc) flickr
The last time Dallas employed aerial-spraying for mosquito control was in 1966.

Dallas County wants the mayors of cities north of I-30 to decide by late Wednesday if they want aerial spraying for mosquitoes – the carriers of West Nile virus. The fast track for aerial spraying comes as Dallas County announced a tenth West Nile death.

Dr. David Lakey, Commissioner of the Texas Department of State Health Services, was among officials who briefed city leaders from more than a dozen north Dallas County cities about aerial spraying. He says it’s the next appropriate step in an escalating public health situation.

“Right now Texas has half the West Nile cases in the nation,” said Lakey. “Dallas County has half of the cases in the state of Texas. So, about a quarter of all the cases in the United States are in this county. So, this isn’t business as usual.”

Garland Mayor Ronald Jones agrees that the war on mosquitoes needs to be stepped up.

“Right now my position is to recommend to go forward with aerial spraying knowing that that’s going to create a lot of negative comments. But I’ve got to consider life and the health of my citizens and everybody in the community,” Jones said.

Dr. Gene Richardson is a retired Dallas entomologist.

“The long term effect on human beings is totally unknown,” he said.

Richardson is against aerial spraying. He says for one thing, it’s ineffective.

“Unless you kill 90 percent of the mosquitoes, within a week they’ll be right back to where they were,” said Richardson. “So, what we need to do is stop breeding mosquitoes.”

Richardson advocates aggressive larvaciding – killing mosquitoes before they hatch. He says in addition to possible harm to humans, the pesticide used to kill mosquitoes also kills butterflies, lady bugs and other insects. Health Services Commissioner David Lakey says spraying happens at night when mosquitoes are in the air and butterflies are not, so there’s a degree of protection by location, leaves and other foliage. As far as human risk:

“I believe, CDC believes, these chemicals are safe and effective,” said Lakey.

Even before the meeting with Commissioner Lakey, Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings was on board with aerial spraying.

“When we have this many deaths, and this many people that are sick, and the sense of fear that is dialing up among the community we need to take the safe and appropriate action, and I think this is it,” said the Mayor.

State officials say if an emergency is declared in a city, the Mayor can make the decision to spray or not.

The tenth death in Dallas County was a woman in her 90’s who lived in the 75229 zip code in north Dallas. Tarrant County reported a second death Monday: a Fort Worth man in his 80’s.

Information on areas scheduled for spraying:


Park Cities


Update on Mosquito Abatement Efforts 2012

Former KERA reporter BJ Austin spent more than 25 years in broadcast journalism, anchoring and reporting in Atlanta, New York, New Orleans and Dallas. Along the way, she covered Atlanta City Hall, the Georgia Legislature and the corruption trials of Louisiana Gov. Edwin Edwards.