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Experts not ready to declare West Nile season over

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DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) – 2012 was a record year for West Nile Virus cases in North Texas.

Nearly 400 people were infected with the virus in Dallas County alone. 17 people died. And experts still aren't ready to declare the season is over.

But Dallas County Commissioners and the Dallas County Health Department are already adding to their arsenal for next year.

"We're adding two microbiologist position duties," said Dallas County Commissioner John Wiley Price.

The two microbiologists will cost approximately $60,000 a piece. But they won't cost Dallas County a dime. Their salaries will be funded through two grants.

"Once they come on board, that will increase our capacity to do more testing," said Dallas County Health and Human Services Director Zachary Thompson

Dallas County currently tests 14 cities and municipalities.

Two more microbiologists will increase that to 25 and help officials focus on the most problematic portion of the county, the North East.

"56-percent of infected cases came out of the North East quadrant of the City of Dallas," Thompson said.

Two more microbiologists will also improve the time it takes to receive results from testing sites.

"To have a 24 or 48 hour turnaround so you can begin your ground assault, your ground application," said Thompson.

"The faster we know where these positive mosquito pools are, the quicker we are to respond in terms of targeted spraying as well as public education to prevent an outbreak of West Nile Virus in 2013," Thompson said.

Current testing shows the kinds of mosquitos usually seen during the summer are still here.

Thompson said everyone has been talking about the need for a freeze.

"We need a consistent cold front for a period of weeks or days to be able to kill these mosquitos," Thompson said.

But the Dallas County Health Department and Dallas County Commissioners aren't waiting for the weather.

They're preparing for next May, the start of the West Nile Virus peak season.

The microbiologists will start in January.

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