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Cold Snap Won't Completely Kill Off West Nile & Allergens

DALLAS (CBS 11 NEWS) - In North Texas, everything from bugs to bad allergies is often blamed on our typically mild winters.  So, after two days of bitter cold, will the arctic blast at least kill off a few bugs?

"It might reduce some," says Dallas County Entomologist Scott Sawlis, "but, as far as what takes place in July, with the weather here in January? A lot of activity can take place between now and then."

County health officials are cautioning residents to avoid becoming overconfident because of a brief cold snap -- reminding us that even northern states battle West Nile.  The potentially fatal mosquito borne disease was at its worst in North Texas during the summer of 2012.  Hundreds were infected and dozens of patients died.  Then last summer, local experts released research suggesting that the unusually warm winter played a role.

"It was a perfect storm," said UT Southwestern Medical Center Chief of Epidemiology, Dr. Robert Haley.  "We had the fewest hard freeze days, a low temperature of 28 degrees, the warmest winter and the warmest spring and we were in a drought, but it was punctuated by some rain storms.  When you have a warm winter and a lack of a hard freeze, you get more mosquitoes surviving the winter."

On Tuesday Dr. Haley said he welcomes the cold snap; but, stresses that a number of factors will influence the spread of West Nile as we head into the summer months. "For example, it may be that birds migrating up here in the early springtime from South American… if some of those are infected with west nile, that might trigger an early epidemic."

Meanwhile, Dallas County conducts year round mosquito surveillance and staffers are already preparing to increase that activity as the weather warms.  It is important, experts say, to remain vigilant because cold snap or no, the mosquitoes will return.

"Mosquito season is always around the corner," Sawlis warned, "come summertime, 'fight the bite.'"

(©2014 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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