TX Senate bill aims to prevent West Nile virus

West Nile

TYLER (KYTX) - It may only be Spring, but the Northeast Texas Public Health District is already taking measures to combat mosquitoes.

And, thanks to a bill Texas Senators passed this month, local governments and health departments could get more power to fight West Nile virus this Summer.

Dallas Senator John Carona is backing the bill. It would allow local governments to treat standing water for West Nile virus in pools at abandoned or foreclosed homes without permission from the homeowner or bank.

Carona says after Texas saw a record number of West Nile virus cases last year, we need to make it as easy as possible to treat stagnant water. Many East Texans agree.

"It is concerning for us and our neighborhood."

Carla Bridges lives next door to a foreclosed home on Hampton Hill Drive in Tyler. She says it's sat vacant for years.

But, this unattended swimming pool in the backyard is what really bothers her.

"It's a bad thing because mosquitoes breed in standing water. And, that's what that is now."

"Because the water's not turning over, because there's not any chemical in it, then that's a perfect growing spot for mosquitoes."

Brenda Elrod is environmental health director at the Northeast Texas Public Health District.

She says Spring time is when mosquito eggs start to hatch. And, her team is already preparing for an influx of mosquitoes.

"Now's the time to start our treatment. Now's the time for folks to start thinking about what's going on in their yards."

She says when it comes to standing water in abandoned pools, they have to be able to see the mosquitoes or mosquito larvae and get permission from the homeowner or bank before treating the water. She says if this bill passed, it would eliminate a lot of trouble.

"If we had a regulation that would allow us to go on the property without having to get some kind of warrant, that would release us to treat a lot more areas."

"We often think about mosquitoes breeding in large bodies of stagnant water, like this abandoned pool. But, Elrod says the amount of water it takes to fill just a the cap off a water bottle is all a mosquito needs to grow and lay its eggs."

"West Nile virus, has of course, been a bad things for several years now." says Bridges. "And, I don't know what else mosquitoes can carry, but it's just not good to have a swamp next door."

Bridges says she just wishes someone would move in and bring the pool back to life.

"It's just sad that a house that's not loved and occupied is going to die."

And possibly create an unnecessary health hazard for neighbors.

Elrod says the pool on Hampton Hill Drive does not have any reported mosquito issues, but the home is certainly on their radar.

If this bill passes, it would go into effect the first of September.

Elrod says after it rains, wash out bird baths and dump out water in wheelbarrows and other gardening equipment. If you can, don't throw away grass clippings in storm gutters. That just backs up water and creates more standing water for mosquitoes to lay eggs.

It is against the law to blatantly contribute to a mosquito problem. You can actually be ticketed for"abating a mosquito breeding site." It's a Class C misdemeanor that could cost you anywhere from $50 to $2,000. NET Health says it would rather you just take care of the problem on your own though.

NET Health is planning to put out mosquito control chemicals at the start of next week. Workers want to prevent as many eggs from hatching into full-grown mosquitoes as they can.


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