Gainesville begins testing for West Nile Virus

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GAINESVILLE, TX - With the heat comes the mosquitoes and the threat of West Nile. So the city of Gainesville and Cooke County are gearing up to fight the virus.

City and county officials said they started setting mosquito traps last month. Although they are taking proactive steps to reduce the risks, they said residents should always do what they can to keep themselves safe.

Gainesville Code Enforcement Officer, Chip Matthews, showed us how the city traps mosquitoes to test for the presence of the West Nile Virus.

"We put traps out in three different locations every week and then bring the results back to the emergency management office to send the mosquitoes off for testing," said Matthews.

Each week they move the three traps to a different location in the city, nine sites total. They started setting the traps the first week of May and will continue throughout the summer.

"We do have some mosquitoes but there haven't been that many. The city is currently now in the process of scheduling a spray in the recent upcoming months. So we'll be probably spraying once. if not, twice this year," said Matthews.

The traps are first set up by taking a mixture of old water and dry grass. Then pouring it into a plastic bucket to help attract the mosquitoes.

A battery is then connected to a fan that sucks up any mosquitoes and traps them in a net so they can be tested.

"We'll have to be able to obtain live mosquitoes to send off for testing. You can't test a dead mosquito," said Matthews.

Cooke County Emergency Management Coordinator, Ray Fletcher, said this is the third year they've trapped mosquitoes, and so far, there's good news for residents.

"Actually, here in Cooke County we have not had a positive test sample come back yet. That's not to say there not here," said Fletcher.

Last October a Gainesville man, Winnie Sherrill, contracted the West Nile Virus and developed a serious neurological illness.

The virus caused him to develop encephalitis and caused symptoms that affect less than 1% of people infected.

"We have to assume West Nile is here and I believe everyone should be treating themselves as if it is and doing all they can to mitigate those opportunities to get it. We can't stop it. It's here. So the best we can do is try to minimize our exposure," said Matthews.