TUESDAY, Aug. 14 (HealthDay News) -- The Dallas-Fort Worth metropolitan area -- the epicenter of the nation's worst outbreak of West Nile virus this year -- could see aerial spraying of insecticides as early as Thursday night to help control the potentially deadly mosquito-borne disease.
Dallas County has counted 120 cases so far while Texas overall has seen 351 cases, putting it "on track to be the worst year ever for West Nile virus," said Christine Mann, a spokeswoman for the Texas Department of State Health Services.
With nine deaths reported so far, Dallas County officials have declared an emergency. The north Texas region -- which includes Dallas and Fort Worth -- has reported 14 deaths and more than 460 cases.
On Monday, the county gave the go-ahead for aerial spraying of insecticide for the first time in 50 years, although local communities will have to approve the move before spraying begins, according to published reports.
Louisiana and Mississippi have also been hit hard by West Nile virus. Louisiana health officials have reported a total of 68 cases and six deaths, while authorities in Mississippi have reported 59 cases and one death.
The United States is experiencing the biggest spike in West Nile virus since 2004, health officials reported.
Dr. Marc Fischer, a medical epidemiologist with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Arboviral Diseases Branch in Fort Collins, Colo., said a "seasonal outbreak occurs every year but so far this year the activity seems to be greater and a little earlier than in recent years."
It's difficult to pinpoint why virus activity is higher this year and why it is higher in certain regions.
"That's impacted by a number of factors, environmental factors like weather, heat, precipitation, the birds that are around to amplify the virus and maintain it, the mosquitoes that spread the viru
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