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To Combat West Nile, Dallas Will Spray Pesticide From Planes

Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings, center, holds a news conference in front of a plane that will be used for aerial spraying in Dallas.
LM Otero
Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings, center, holds a news conference in front of a plane that will be used for aerial spraying in Dallas.

Residents of Dallas received this robo call today:

According to The Dallas Morning News, that's Dallas City Hall Spokesman Jose Luis Torres warning residents to stay inside this evening, because the city has decided to spray pesticides from airplanes.

From Dallas, NPR's Wade Goodwyn reports the decision was made to combat the spread of West Nile Virus, which has already killed 10 people in the city this year.

Wade sent this report to our Newscast unit:

"It's a very nasty breakout of West Nile disease with hundreds of cases in North Texas. Two weeks ago 35 percent of the mosquito traps captured mosquitoes infected with the disease. The elderly are particularly vulnerable and can die if infected.

"So Dallas will begin spraying from low level aircraft flying like crop dusters, only it's not crops they'll be dusting. The peak of the outbreak appears to have passed with 21 percent of traps this week showing infection. But that's still plenty high enough to worry the city's leaders. Although there is speculation, nobody seems to know exactly why the outbreak this year is so bad."

The Morning News reports that the whole thing could be called off it rains. But it also adds that the plans have been controversial. One council member sent a letter to the mayor, asking him to "consider natural herbicides as an alternative to spraying."

Earlier this month, NPR's Rob Stein reported that authorities were bracing for an outbreak like. Rob reported:

"The West Nile virus first showed up in the U.S. in 1999 and quickly spread from coast to coast, raising widespread alarm. Some have argued that red-breasted robins play a key role in the spread of the virus.

"As it turns out, most people who get infected never know it or recover after just a bad fever, nasty headache and other symptoms. But about 1 percent of people who get the virus develop serious complications, such as encephalitis or meningitis, which can cause permanent paralysis and even death."

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Eyder Peralta is NPR's East Africa correspondent based in Nairobi, Kenya.
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