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Mosquito season arrives ahead of schedule

As nature lovers strolled through North Lakes Park on Tuesday afternoon, Katherine Cline and Shandril Sallee got to work. Perched atop the bridge that arches over a creek, the University of North Texas biology students installed a series of complicated bug traps. They hope to seduce a specific species of mosquito for study: Culex quinquefasciatus. That’s the type that can carry the West Nile virus.

Dangling from the bridge’s guardrails, the traps emit a peculiar scent. The odor, which mimics the lactic acid present in human sweat, is abhorrent to most humans, Cline said. But try telling that to mosquitoes.

“It smells bad, really bad,” Cline, 24, said with a laugh. “But that’s what’s getting the mosquitoes.”

Cline and Sallee’s mentor, UNT professor Jim Kennedy, said June’s heavy rains have encouraged the pesky insects to appear earlier than usual.

Out of the nearly 50 species of mosquitoes present in Denton County, he said local residents should really only look out for the West Nile-carrying Culex.

Last month, a mosquito trap in Frisco tested positive for a West Nile mosquito, according to the 2019 Denton County mosquito log. Still, Kennedy said residents shouldn’t panic.

“Mosquitoes are a nuisance, they’re a bother, and nobody wants to go out and be bitten by them,” he said. “But your chances of getting West Nile are slim.”

This summer’s wet weather has encouraged breeding among floodwater mosquitoes, which don’t carry diseases that affect humans, Kennedy said.

Conversely, the rains have hampered more harmful species’ larvae from reaching maturity, he said. It’s after the weather dries out in July or August that the Culex mosquito population will boom.

Kennedy said there hasn’t been a ground-spraying treatment in Denton so far this year. It’s only after a human is diagnosed with West Nile that the city will order ground spraying, which controls the adult mosquito population but does nothing to eliminate larvae.

The overwhelming majority of people who have been bitten by a West Nile-carrying mosquito won’t experience any symptoms, according to the World Health Organization.

Mark Finley / Simone Carter/ For the DRC 

UNT biology student Shandril Sallee concentrates Tuesday as she sets up a mosquito trap on top of County Line Road Bridge at North Lakes Park.

Around 20% may develop West Nile fever, which causes flu-like symptoms such as fever, headaches and fatigue. Less than 1% contract a more serious, life-threatening form of the virus.

It’s difficult to diagnose the West Nile virus because its symptoms mirror those of other, more common illnesses, said Jennifer Rainey, a spokeswoman with Denton County Public Health.

“If you’re just feeling nausea and have a fever, you typically don’t go to the doctor and say, ‘Hey, test me for West Nile,’” she said.

There are currently no preventive vaccines or treatments for the West Nile virus. It typically affects people with weakened immune systems and the elderly, Rainey said.

In 2018, West Nile virus claimed five lives in Texas, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The virus hasn’t killed anyone in Denton County in several years.

People should take precautions before going outside, Rainey said. But local residents shouldn’t let fear of West Nile stop them from enjoying the outdoors; chances of infection are small if one follows the “Three D’s”:

  • Drain standing water that collects in containers such as pots, empty trash carts and bird baths. This action destroys common mosquito breeding grounds.
  • Dress in long-sleeved clothing to limit skin exposure. Light-colored clothing acts as a deterrent, as mosquitoes are attracted to darker colors.
  • Defend against mosquitoes by using a DEET-based repellent. Picardin and oil of lemon eucalyptus are also effective in warding off mosquitoes.

To treat stagnant water, use Bti briquettes, which contain bacteria that kill mosquito larvae. Each briquette will treat 100 square feet of surface water for 30 days, according to the city of Denton website. Bti is available in limited supply from the city (to learn more, visit, and it is sold at hardware and garden stores.

Government moves migrant kids after reports of poor treatment

The U.S. government has removed most of the children from a remote Border Patrol station in Texas following reports that more than 300 children were detained there, caring for each other with inadequate food, water and sanitation.

Just 30 children remained at the station outside El Paso Monday, said Rep. Veronica Escobar after her office was briefed on the situation by an official with Customs and Border Protection.

Attorneys who visited Clint last week said older children were trying to take care of infants and toddlers, The Associated Press first reported Thursday. They described a 4-year-old with matted hair who had gone without a shower for days, and hungry, inconsolable children struggling to soothe one another. Some had been locked for three weeks inside the facility, where 15 children were sick with the flu and another 10 were in medical quarantine.

“How is it possible that you both were unaware of the inhumane conditions for children, especially tender-age children at the Clint Station?” asked Escobar in a letter sent Friday to U.S. Customs and Border Protection acting commissioner John Sanders and U.S. Border Patrol chief Carla Provost.

She asked to be informed by the end of this week what steps they’re taking to end “these humanitarian abuses.”

Lawmakers from both parties decried the situation last week.

Border Patrol officials have not responded to AP’s questions about the conditions at the Clint facility, but in an emailed statement Monday they said: “Our short-term holding facilities were not designed to hold vulnerable populations and we urgently need additional humanitarian funding to manage this crisis.”

Although it’s unclear where all the children held at Clint have been moved, Escobar said some were sent to another facility on the north side of El Paso called Border Patrol Station 1. Escobar said it’s a temporary site with roll-out mattresses, showers, medical facilities and air conditioning.

But Clara Long, an attorney who interviewed children at Border Patrol Station 1 last week, said conditions were not necessarily better there.

“One boy I spoke with said his family didn’t get mattresses or blankets for the first two nights, and he and his mom came down with a fever,” said Long, a senior researcher with Human Rights Watch. “He said there were no toothbrushes, and it was very, very cold.”

Vice President Mike Pence, asked about the unsafe, unsanitary conditions for the children on Meet the Press on Sunday, said “it’s totally unacceptable,” adding that he hopes Congress will allocate more resources to border security.

Long and a group of lawyers inspected the facilities because they are involved in the Flores settlement, a Clinton-era legal agreement that governs detention conditions for migrant children and families. The lawyers negotiated access to the facility with officials and say Border Patrol knew the dates of their visit three weeks in advance.

Many children interviewed had arrived alone at the U.S.-Mexico border, but some had been separated from their parents or other adult caregivers including aunts and uncles, the attorneys said.

Government rules call for children to be held by the Border Patrol in their short-term stations for no longer than 72 hours before they are transferred to the custody of Health and Human Services, which houses migrant youth in facilities around the country through its Office of Refugee Resettlement while authorities determine if they can be released to relatives or family friends.

Customs and Border Protection has referred AP’s questions to the Office of Refugee Resettlement, which said Monday that 249 children who had been held at Clint would be moved to the agency’s network of shelters and other facilities by Tuesday.

“[Unaccompanied children] are waiting too long in CBP facilities that are not designed to care for children,” ORR spokeswoman Evelyn Stauffer said. “These children should now all be in HHS care as of Tuesday.”

Investigation still ongoing into child's death

Law enforcement officials continue to investigate the death of 4-year-old Kaysen Neyland of Providence Village.

Aubrey Police Chief Charles Kreidler said no new information would be released at this time, but he confirmed that no charges have been filed so far in relation to the case.

“There’s not much more I can tell you at this point,” Kreidler said.

The Dallas County Medical Examiner’s Office is conducting an autopsy. Melissa Willis, a medical transcriptionist for the office, said that nothing has been completed on the case so far, and the autopsy will likely take 90 days to be finalized.

No cause of death has been released.

Aubrey police said a family member found Kaysen locked inside a car parked in the driveway of his home, in the 10000 block of Franklin Drive, shortly before 5 p.m. Thursday.

The boy was unresponsive and had been inside the car for an unspecified amount of time. Kreidler declined to comment on whether the boy may have entered the vehicle without his family’s knowledge or been left inside.

Kaysen was subsequently airlifted to Children’s Medical Center Dallas, where he died at 8:58 a.m. Saturday.

Referencing a news release posted to Facebook on Saturday, Kreidler said that any conclusions drawn at this point should be considered pure speculation.

While the release mentions that various state and local agencies are assisting in the investigation, only the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services was mentioned by name. Kreidler did not release the names of other investigating agencies, claiming knowledge of their involvement might harm the investigation.

Officials in Pilot Point give family more time on historic home

PILOT POINT — It was better this week.

Unlike last Monday night, when this Pilot Point City Council had to decide whether to recall its mayor amid infighting, the council dove into a difficult topic going back generations, and handled it with class.

The City Council gave a family and its supporters 90 more days to figure out what to do about the property at 522 E. Burks St., which according to Denton County historians is a vital piece of black history here.

After rendering the house substandard in 2014, Pilot Point officials have tried for years to have it either torn down or renovated. The city and others have offered to purchase the house and renovate it, but Rosalene Sledge, whose father owned the house, won’t give it up.

“My daddy worked too hard for it,” she said. “I don’t feel like it’s my right to give it away.”

Enter Micah Crittenden, the University of North Texas history graduate student whose research into the historic black community of St. John’s near Pilot Point accidentally led her to Sledge’s family struggle to keep the 522 E. Burks St. home from demolition.

Two months ago, Crittenden pleaded for the council to hold off on voting on whether to condemn the house. She said she found evidence that the original part of the house, before an addition was made, was once a school for African Americans near the Denton-Cooke county line before it was moved in the 1940s to Burks Street in Pilot Point.

“It’s powerful when you really look at it from the cultural perspective,” Crittenden said Monday, “that I think the family and the community sees it from.”

The council told Crittenden to apply for any kind of grants to help fund the home’s renovation and apply for historical markers. She has done both, Crittenden said Monday. She filed an application for a Texas Historical Commission marker.

“This matters,” Crittenden said as she closed her presentation.

But she said the grant money, if any is given, will likely not be enough to fund the renovation completely.

That teed up a rather productive conversation between members of Sledge’s family, the council, Crittenden, residents and Peggy Riddle, director of Denton County’s Office of History and Culture, who offered the county’s support in preserving the house and its history.

And although city officials see it as a substandard building — Mayor Shea Dane-Patterson said so herself during the meeting — the council again voted unanimously to give the family a chance to come up with a plan.

Whether the funding to renovate the place will come from private donations, grants or the family will be decided in about three months, when the council will again hear from the family and supporters on the issue.