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CDC Says West Nile In DFW Not Over

The Centers for Disease Control put North Texas at the center of a national conference call on West Nile Virus. While Dallas, Fort Worth is clearly the most infected area in the country… the reason why, is not so clear.

It’s hard to predict exactly how many cases of West Nile Virus will be reported before the epidemic is truly over. But at this point in the summer, the United States has higher numbers than ever before.

Dr. Lyle Peterson: The available information indicates that the numbers of reported cases are trending upward in most areas, including Texas.

Dr. Lyle Peterson is with the Centers for Disease Control.

He says half of all the West Nile cases in the nation belong to the Lone Star State. The vast majority of those are in the Dallas , Fort Worth area, but what’s puzzling is that some parts of the state remain largely unaffected.

“Why is this occurring in Dallas or elsewhere as opposed to Houston or some other cities? And the answer is we don’t really know. We do know that often times, West Nile virus is a very focal disease. You can have a lot of cases in one area and no cases 100 miles away. It has a lot to do with the local ecology of that area, how many birds may be susceptible, the particular population of mosquitoes that were able to breed in a certain area," Peterson says.

Mid August is the peak for West Nile epidemics, but experts say they anticipate many additional cases will be reported through September.

Texas Health Commissioner David Lakey says with 11 deaths already in Dallas County , North Texas is breaking all kinds of unfortunate records.

Lakey: If you look at Dallas County data and add up the total deaths from 2003 to 2011, they had 10 deaths. So we are now, in this year, in Dallas County , have more deaths than their entire history in the past.

The CDC has sent both money and manpower to Texas to help with mosquito spraying and surveillance.

Courtney Collins has been working as a broadcast journalist since graduating from the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University in 2004. Before coming to KERA in 2011, Courtney worked as a reporter for NPR member station WAMU in Washington D.C. While there she covered daily news and reported for the station’s weekly news magazine, Metro Connection.