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From June 24, 2002

West Nile Virus Flies into Texas, Blanket Mosquito Spraying Commences

University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston confirmed two dead Blue Jays found in Harris County, Texas were infected with West Nile virus (WNv). These are the first confirmed cases of the potentially fatal disease in Texas and the farthest west that the virus has been found.

The Texas Department of Health admits that only one percent of people bitten by infected mosquitoes will become ill and only a very small percentage of mosquitoes are infected. "This is not a big public health emergency. West Nile is a fairly mild disease if you come down with it at all." Says Jim Schuermann of the Texas Department of Health. Despite the small potential threat of WNv in Harris County, an extensive aerial and ground spraying regime is blanketing area residents in pesticides.

Last summer infected mosquitoes and birds spread WNv west into Louisiana and now across the border into this Huston area county. "We can assume West Nile virus is probably all over the county," said Ray Parsons, director of Harris County's mosquito control program. "I don't think the blue jay flew from Louisiana to this part of the county without stopping." Experts estimate that WNv may spread as far west as Colorado this summer and throughout the lower 48 states in less then five years.