The mayor of Dallas has declared a state of emergency as the ninth largest U.S. city struggles with an outbreak of the West Niles virus, Reuters reports. Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings said the “widespread outbreak of mosquito-borne West Nile Virus that has caused and appears likely to continue to cause widespread and severe illness and loss of life.”
Fourteen of the 26 confirmed deaths and nearly half of the 693 reported cases of the mosquito-borne virus reported this year to the centres for Disease Control and Prevention have been in Texas.
The move clears the way for aerial spraying to kill infected mosquitoes that transmit the disease, despite the fact that such spraying may expose people to chemical pesticides.
Texas residents have been urged to use insect repellent, avoid going out at dusk and dawn, get rid of stagnant water (where the insect can breed) and to wear protective clothing.
“Unless actions toward response and prevention are immediately initiated, as hereby provided, avoidable serious illnesses and loss of life is likely to occur,” Rawlings said.
The number of West Nile cases reported from 42 states this year has been the highest recorded through the end of July since 2004, with 80 per cent of the cases in Texas, Mississippi and Oklahoma.
The BBC notes that milder symptoms of the virus include headaches and skin rashes while extreme cases can include high fever, loss of vision, paralysis and death.
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