Despite one of the worst seasons for West Nile virus in recent years, public health officials in Oklahoma County said there are no immediate plans to step up the fight to eradicate the mosquitoes that carry it.
An unprecedented air assault against the bloodsuckers in Dallas may be necessary there, but local programs that combine public awareness, insect surveillance and calculated attacks on mosquito breeding grounds remain effective here, said a spokesman for Association of Central Oklahoma Governments.
Jerry Church said the mosquito problem plaguing Texas is more extreme than in Oklahoma, and the large pesticide spray operation launched there on Thursday is unnecessary here.
“Spraying is something that the public likes to see, but there's a lot of technical science behind the action of spraying — you have to someone certified to actually use the equipment, to use the specific pesticide that is recommended, and it's really, really expensive,” Church said. “And quite frankly, I think it's ineffective.”
More than 450 cases of West Nile virus, which is transmitted to the bloodstream by infected mosquitoes, have been reported in Texas this year, compared to 61 in Oklahoma. The virus has killed 20 in Texas and three in Oklahoma, including two in Oklahoma County.
The numbers mark the nation's worst outbreak of West Nile since the first outbreak in 1999.
But in Oklahoma County, spraying is currently not an option. Instead, public works and parks officials in Oklahoma City and Oklahoma County rely on a larvicide that looks like a charcoal briquette. When dropped into a stagnant body of water, the chemical brick can fend off the development of mosquitoes for as long as four months.
That's the approach used by Oklahoma City in city storm drains, which lead the pack when it comes to chosen nesting grounds for the West Nile carriers.
“Spraying is a possibility but not a probability,” said city spokeswoman Kristy Yager. “We don't have the equipment and we haven't had a need for it in the past. We've never sprayed.”
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At a glance
How to cut mosquito numbers
• Dispose of tin cans, old tires, bottles, jars, buckets, drums, ceramic pots and other containers, or make sure they contain no standing water.
• Clean clogged gutters and slope to downspouts.
• Drain improperly installed and sagging swimming pool covers.
• Change the water in birdbaths at least twice weekly.
• Clean and chlorinate swimming pools, outdoor spas, saunas and hot tubs. If not in use, keep them empty and covered.
• Empty your pet's water pan daily.
• Repair leaky pipes and faucets.
• Screen rain barrels and openings to water tanks.
• Eliminate weeds, tall grass and other mosquito breeding places.
• Use larvicide where standing water cannot be removed or fill holes.
• Stock ornamental ponds with mosquito-eating fish.
• Make sure doors and windows have tightfitting screens in good repair.