Thomas Hood, Contributing Writer
Area news for those returning to the Irving campus this fall seems fairly daunting at first glance. The West Nile virus has been extremely prevalent this summer, with the New York Times reporting 66 deaths and 1,590 reported cases nationwide. Of those deaths, 22 have been in the Dallas area, with the towns of Denton, Flower Mound and Lewisville receiving aerial spraying in an attempt to stop mosquito breeding and subsequent infection. Noticeably, the town of Irving has not received aerial spraying, despite the most recent death from West Nile virus having occurred in Irving, according to WFAA, a Dallas-Fort Worth news station. The town of Irving’s request to have 3,300 acres of park land sprayed was denied by Clarke, the state’s contractor, with Clarke spokesperson Laura McGowan giving the contractor’s official statement: “After conferring with the Department of State Health Services, the recommendation is to have these areas treated via ground application versus aerial spraying.” According to the city of Irving’s official statement, “The decision was made following a discussion with Dallas’ chosen aerial spray contractor [Clarke], and a careful review of all the pertinent data indicating that the mosquito issue in Irving is not as widespread as it is in some other North Texas cities.”
According to the A.D.A.M. Medical Encyclopedia, the West Nile virus is a flavivirus first identified in Uganda in 1937; research suggests that the virus is in fact spread by infected birds being bitten by mosquitoes which then bite humans. The majority of those bitten by mosquitoes carrying the West Nile virus do not know that they have it. Only a few of those exposed to the virus notice any symptoms, and even fewer develop a severe disease because of it. The obvious exceptions are those whose immune systems have been compromised or are suboptimal in some capacity, for instance, those who are infected with HIV or have had organ transplants or recent chemotherapy, women who are pregnant and the elderly or very young. West Nile virus may also be spread through blood transfusions and organ transplants, and mothers who have been exposed to the West Nile virus may spread it to their children via breastfeeding. Common symptoms of the mild West Nile disease (generally known as West Nile fever) are abdominal pain, diarrhea, fever, lack of appetite and muscle aches. Because it is not a bacterial infection, antibiotics do nothing to treat West Nile virus.
Because the student body, faculty and staff at the University of Dallas are by and large not elderly, there is little chance of the West Nile virus seriously affecting the campus, if at all. However, PubMed Health recommends using mosquito-repellant products containing DEET, wearing long sleeves and pants if possible, and draining pools of standing water, such as trash bins and plant saucers, since mosquitoes breed in stagnant water.