The warnings against allowing stagnant water to accumulate have been made and controversial aerial insecticide spraying has ignited the ire of organic farmers and bee keepers throughout North Texas. But the number of cases of West Nile virus remains at a staggeringly high number in Tarrant and Dallas counties, who continue to be the heaviest hit of Texas counties. Recent counts add up to 384 incidences of the illness reported between them. But five cases have been reported as far north as Randal County and as far south as Bexar County.

So far citizens of Erath County have been lucky.

Texas Health Harris Methodist Hospital Stephenville infection prevention coordinator Andrea Newman, R. N., has good news.

“The hospital has not had any confirmed cases of West Nile,” she said.

But it is not wise to be lulled into a potentially false sense of security.

West Nile virus is actually an avian disease. And literally as the crow flies, the path from Tarrant County to Erath is not a long one. House sparrows, blue jays, cardinals and, yes, the aforementioned crows are birds most likely to contract the virus. Once a mosquito bites an infected bird, it can pass the virus on to other birds, humans and animals.

With school starting, students are more mobile, and it is prudent to take precautions to ensure their safety against West Nile. It is true the virus is more dangerous to the elderly and those with compromised immune systems. But parents should be aware that children who walk to school and spend time on the playground are likely to be exposed to mosquitoes. So a deet-based repellant might be a good safety measure to consider when children are heading out the door each morning.

Despite concerns of a West Nile epidemic, it is important to keep the facts in perspective. Among those who become infected with West Nile virus, most will suffer mild symptoms. The Center for Disease Control reports less than 1% of those bitten by infected mosquitoes will actually develop the more severe forms of the illness. Most won't even know they have been affected at all.

The best course of action is to remain cautious and avoid being bitten by a mosquito in the first place. Drain standing water where mosquitoes breed and use insect repellant. And keep in mind mosquitoes are more active from dusk to dawn.