It is completely official. The Centers for Disease Control announced this week that 2012 was a terrible year for West Nile Virus -- actually the worst ever -- and warns that it may happen again.
Clearly Houston is a prime stomping ground for the disease. We have swampland, mosquitoes and livestock (where mosquitoes like to hang around.) It's not enough that we have to be worried about tropical storms becoming hurricanes. The tiny annoying stealth bombers can also tear up our lives.
So how can we defend ourselves -- and let us say at this juncture that West Nile is no laughing matter. A serious case can result in death and even ones that don't kill can knock people out of school or work for weeks and months on end. Your body feels like you have the worst case of the flu ever and victims often have difficulty walking. And don't get us started on the headaches that are part of the package.
Here's what the city of Houston had to offer as advice last year -- when there were a total of 5,674 cases and 286 deaths around the country due to WNV.
Protect Yourself -- Wear long pants and long-sleeved shirts, especially from dusk to dawn. -- Use insect repellent that contains DEET. Children should use insect repellents that contain less than 10 percent DEET. Do not apply DEET on babies. Adults should use insect repellents that contain more than 10 percent DEET.
Keep the storm sewers clean to reduce mosquito breeding -- Sweep up lawn clippings, leaves and limbs from sidewalks, driveways, curbs and gutters. -- Don't let lawn water or car washing water enter the street. -- Pick up litter and other debris from your yard and the street.
Keep the mosquitoes out of your house -- Keep doors and windows closed. -- Seal cracks and gaps in the house. -- If mosquitoes are in the house, use flying insect spray, following label instructions. Other actions to prevent mosquito breeding -- Empty, remove or dispose of anything in the yard that can hold water: flower pot saucers, cans, toys, litter, rain barrels, plastic sheeting, etc. -- Pet water bowls and birdbaths should be emptied and refilled at least twice a week. -- Keep the rain gutters on your house clean and properly draining. -- Repair household water leaks, move air-conditioner drain hose frequently. -- Report water and sewer main leaks and breaks to 311.
Let the spraying begin.