west-nile-texasOn Friday, Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins declared a public health emergency in response to a West Nile virus epidemic which has killed nine people and infected more than 175 others, according to the Dallas County Department of Health and Human Services.

Jenkins is also the director of the county’s Homeland Security and Emergency Management department and has filed a local disaster declaration with the state.

This declaration will expand our avenues for assistance in our ongoing battle with West Nile virus,” Jenkins said in a statement to the press Friday evening. Jenkins has offered insecticide spraying by planes which will be offered to the hardest hit communities of the virus, as long as those local agencies request the assistance:

“The insecticide is safe. The planes are quite sophisticated, and they get the spray to where it needs to go. Aerial spraying would occur from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m., when children are inside”

There have been 241 cases of the deadly disease reported nationwide in 2012, encompassing 42 states. According to the CDC 80% of those cases have occurred in Texas, Mississippi and Oklahoma, including 4 other deaths which occurred prior to the recent outbreak in Texas. Marc Fischer, a CDC medical epidemiologist told reporters”

“It is not clear why we are seeing more activity than in recent years. Regardless of the reasons for the increase, people should be aware of the West Nile virus activity in their area and take action to protect themselves and their family.”

The CDC website states that most West Nile virus infections occur between the months of June and September, peaking in August. The virus is transmitted through infected mosquitoes with symptoms that include fever, headache, body aches, vomiting, joint pains and diarrhea.

People 50 and older are more prone to infection, as are people suffering from other diseases such as cancer, diabetes, kidney disease or people with organ transplants. People in these categories are urged to take special precautions to prevent infection by avoiding mosquito bites, ensuring their properties are free of mosquito breeding situations such as stagnated water and to wear insect repellant at all times while outdoors.

There are currently no known medications for the treatment of West Nile or vaccines to prevent infection.