The Week In Arlington

The Week In Arlington

More West Nile Virus Found

Three more locations in Arlington have mosquitoes that tested positive for the potentially fatal West Nile virus.

Arlington County health officials found West Nile-positive mosquitoes at Rock Spring Park, the Water Treatment Control Plant, and the intersection of Fairfax Drive and I-66. Previously, mosquitoes infected with the West Nile virus were found at Bluemont Park, Barcroft Park, Glen Carlyn Park and at South Cleveland Street.

So far, no human cases of West Nile have been reported.

Aftab Hussain, with the county’s Environmental Health Bureau, said that "Most people bitten by mosquitoes don’t get sick and most who do experience mild flu-like symptoms." But he added "People over the age of 50 are at a greater risk of encephalitis," a potentially fatal inflammation of the brain, if they are infected with West Nile. Hussain also said that West Nile cannot be transmitted from person to person.

To avoid the spread of the West Nile virus, the county is encouraging citizens to eliminate standing water sources like bird baths or potted plants, drain or treat unused swimming pools and keep rain gutters clean.

"We continue to encourage Arlington residents to reduce exposure to mosquitoes by wearing long sleeves and pants, limiting outdoor activities at dawn or dusk, and using insect repellent for outdoor activities," said Environmental Health Bureau chief Richard Cole in a statement.

One of the areas where West Nile mosquitoes were found was Beaver Pond, located near the intersection of Fairfax Drive and I-66. Designed to collect runoff storm water from the highway, the pond has become polluted in recent years.

Hussain said that they county is treating the pond with "biological agents" to reduce the amount of mosquitoes that congregate there. He also said that the county is treating the area around the Water Treatment Control Plant with "environmentally-friendly insecticide."

— David Schultz

County Launches New Buses

ART, Arlington County’s regional transit bus line, announced last week that it has added eight new environmentally-friendly buses to its fleet.

County transit officials said that the new buses are larger and more comfortable than ART’s older buses and that they also generate fewer harmful greenhouse gases than standard buses.

"Public transportation is so important," County Board Member Chris Zimmerman (D) said at a ribbon cutting ceremony for the new buses. "These are one tool that we can use to make people see that it can be convenient and fun."

Zimmerman himself rode to the ceremony on one of the new buses and said that it was his "easiest ride in months." "He’s really practicing what he preaches," joked Board Chairman Paul Ferguson (D).

Along with more space, the buses will feature lower floors for easier access, two doors for faster boarding, and climate controls to keep the buses cool in the summer and warm in the winter.

"These buses are the nicest in the country," Ferguson said. He also said that getting more people to take public transportation is a big part of his much-touted environmental initiative that seeks to reduce the county's emissions of greenhouse gases.

ART officials said that they will use the new buses to expand service on their busiest route, which goes from the Courthouse Metro Station to Columbia Pike. John Carten, the chair of the County Board’s transit advisory committee, said that the addition of the new buses is much needed in a densely populated area such as Arlington.

"These new heavy-duty vehicles will help meet Arlington’s growing public transportation population," Carten said.

Dennis Leach, the county’s Department of Transportation director said that the buses were purchased and made their way on to the street in only six months, an amount of time that is "unheard of in the transit business." He also said that the buses cost around $340,000 each but that the price will be offset somewhat by state transit dollars.

— David Schultz

Students Must Get Vaccination

Arlington Public Schools are requiring all sixth-grade students to have a booster shot for tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis, or Tdap, before starting school.

The students must get the shots if at least five years have passed since their last booster shot. Students who do not meet the requirement by the first day of school, Sept. 4, will not be allowed to attend.

If a child is younger than 11 years old when beginning sixth grade, he or she can attend school without receiving the Tdap vaccination. To do this, Arlington Public Schools require a temporary medical exemption signed by the student’s physician which indicates that the student will receive the vaccination upon turning 11.

Tdap vaccinations may be obtained from private doctors, military clinics or the health department. Free immunizations can be received at the Arlington County Public Health Clinic at 3033 Wilson Blvd. on the second floor.

Shots will be given from 3 to 6:30 p.m. on Tuesdays and 7:30 to 11 a.m. on Fridays. No appointment is necessary. Aug. 31 will be the last opportunity to receive the free vaccination prior to the beginning of school.

Parents with questions about the Tdap vaccine should call their doctor or the School Health Office at 703-228-1650 or at 703-228-1651.