ABILENE, Texas - A bill now making its way through the Texas Legislature would allow county, city and health employees to enter abandoned or foreclosed properties to treat standing groundwater.
The Texas Department of State Health services said about 90 people died from the West Nile Virus in 2012. The outbreak hit levels that hadn't been seen in over a decade.
"The thing I can say about last year's West Nile is I think it caught everybody by surprise around the nation. I was looking at the statistics both nation and on the state of Texas – and it was an explosion is possibly the best way to say it," Abilene Environmental Health Manager Glenn Bailey said.
Now, Texas lawmakers are trying to find ways to keep history from repeating itself. The only type of mosquitoes that can carry the virus are called Culex mosquitoes. One of the best ways to prevent them from spreading is to simply pour out or get rid of standing groundwater.
"Mosquitoes have to have standing water in which to lay their eggs and that is part of their life cycle," Bailey said. "The Culex mosquito doesn't take a whole lot of standing water. A teaspoon of water will hatch about 500 mosquitoes."
That's why Texas legislators are trying to pass a bill that would allow city and county workers to get rid of groundwater in unoccupied properties.
If the bill wins final House approval by a two-thirds vote, and Gov. Rick Perry signs it, it would take effect immediately.
Bailey said he tests for infected mosquitoes every week. So far he hasn't found any this year – and that is partially because of the lack of rain and colder temperatures at night.