Student Well-Being

Threat of West Nile Virus Prompts District Efforts to Curb Mosquitoes

By Marianne D. Hurst — September 04, 2002 2 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

School districts in some Southern states are taking aggressive measures to protect students from being bitten by disease-carrying mosquitoes because of increasing fears of the West Nile virus.

Those steps are especially vigorous in Louisiana, where there appears to be a greater prevalence of mosquitoes carrying the virus.

Officials of the 33,000-student St. Tammany Parish public schools in Covington, La., for instance, are telling principals to limit outdoor recess time and to keep all physical education classes indoors. This school year, the district is also providing insect repellents to students who participate in after-school activities for use with parental permission. And all nearby ponds are being stocked with mosquito-eating fish.

Schools in the district have also been instructed to remove outdoor containers that might collect water, or to drill holes in the bottoms of the containers so the dirty water, which attracts mosquitoes, drains and dries.

The West Nile virus is most dangerous for elderly people with underlying health problems and for young children, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The virus causes flu-like symptoms, such as slight fevers, headaches, neck stiffness, disorientation, muscle weakness, and skin rashes.

However, less than 1 percent of mosquitoes carry the West Nile virus, and less than 1 percent of the people who are bitten by infected mosquitoes will contract the virus, according to the CDC.

So far, 480 cases of West Nile virus have been reported nationwide in 2002, and 24 of those people have died, according to the CDC. Louisiana tops the list with 171 reported cases and eight deaths, followed by Mississippi with 91 cases and three deaths, and Texas with 38 cases and one death.

Response in Houston

In Texas, the 208,000-student Houston school district is also responding to concerns about the virus. The district isn’t directly providing mosquito repellants, but students are allowed to bring insect repellent lotions to school for self-application. In addition, letters with basic facts about the virus have been sent to parents, and school maintenance workers have been told to eliminate areas of standing water on school grounds.

In Mississippi, the state’s “Fight the Bite” program encourages schools to include students in the effort to prevent West Nile infection. The state is educating students on conditions that increase mosquito populations, symptoms the virus displays, and methods of prevention.

While the state is not asking schools to limit student outdoor activities, Christie Farese, the Mississippi Department of Education’s public relations director, said state officials were taking the threat seriously and were asking all schools to make an effort to maintain cleaner campuses that would tend not to attract mosquitoes.


School Climate & Safety K-12 Essentials Forum Strengthen Students’ Connections to School
Join this free event to learn how schools are creating the space for students to form strong bonds with each other and trusted adults.
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
IT Infrastructure & Management Webinar
Future-Proofing Your School's Tech Ecosystem: Strategies for Asset Tracking, Sustainability, and Budget Optimization
Gain actionable insights into effective asset management, budget optimization, and sustainable IT practices.
Content provided by Follett Learning
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Budget & Finance Webinar
Innovative Funding Models: A Deep Dive into Public-Private Partnerships
Discover how innovative funding models drive educational projects forward. Join us for insights into effective PPP implementation.
Content provided by Follett Learning

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Student Well-Being Cellphone Headaches in Middle Schools: Why Policies Aren't Enough
Middle schoolers' developmental stage makes them uniquely vulnerable to the negative aspects of cellphones. Policies alone won't help.
6 min read
A student holds a cell phone during class at Bel Air High School in Bel Air, Md., on Jan. 25, 2024.
A student holds a cellphone during class at Bel Air High School in Bel Air, Md., on Jan. 25, 2024.
Jaclyn Borowski/Education Week
Student Well-Being Teachers Want Parents to Step Up to Curb Cellphone Misuse. Are They Ready?
A program from the National PTA aims to partner with schools to give parents resources on teaching their children healthy tech habits.
5 min read
Elementary students standing in line against a brick wall using cellphones and not interacting.
Student Well-Being Schools Feel Less Equipped to Meet Students' Mental Health Needs Than a Few Years Ago
Less than half of public schools report that they can effectively meet students’ mental health needs.
4 min read
Image of a student with their head down on their arms, at a desk.
Olga Beliaeva/iStock/Getty
Student Well-Being Download How to Spot and Combat Student Apathy: A Teacher Resource
A guide to help teachers recognize and address apathy in the classroom.
1 min read
Student reading at a desk with their head on their hand.