Texas confirms first West Nile case of season
Special to the Courier
Last week, medical administrators with the Texas Department of State Health Services confirmed the state's first case of West Nile illness of the season.
DSHS urges people to take precautions to reduce the risk of contracting West Nile virus, a mosquito-borne illness. "The best way to protect yourself is by using insect repellent every time you go outside," said Tom Sidwa, state public health veterinarian and manager of the Zoonosis Control Branch. "West Nile virus can make people very sick and symptoms can last for weeks or months."
West Nile fever was confirmed in a patient from Travis County. Additional details about the patient are not being released to protect the patient's identity. The West Nile season typically runs from June through October.
Last year, there were 183 human cases of West Nile illness in Texas, including 14 deaths. The 2012 season was an unprecedented year for West Nile with record numbers of cases and deaths reported in the state. The intensity of West Nile activity in Texas fluctuates from year to year and is difficult to predict.
Severity of the outbreak depends on a variety of factors, including weather, numbers of birds and mosquitoes that maintain and spread the virus and human behavior. The season can last up until the first hard freeze of the year.
To reduce exposure to West Nile virus:
• Use an approved insect repellent every time you go outside and follow the instructions on the label. Among the EPA-approved repellents are those that contain DEET, picaridin, IR3535, oil of lemon eucalyptus and para-menthane-diol products.
• Regularly drain standing water, including water collecting in empty cans, tires, buckets, clogged rain gutters and saucers under potted plants. Mosquitoes that spread West Nile virus breed in stagnant water.
• Wear long sleeves and pants at dawn and dusk when mosquitoes are most active.
• Use air conditioning or make sure there are screens on all doors and windows to keep mosquitoes from entering the home.
Symptoms of the milder form of illness, West Nile fever, can include headache, fever, muscle and joint aches, nausea and fatigue. People with West Nile fever typically recover on their own, although symptoms may last for several weeks.
Symptoms of the more serious form of illness, West Nile neuroinvasive disease, can include those of West Nile fever plus neck stiffness, stupor, disorientation, coma, tremors, convulsions, muscle weakness and paralysis. Up to 80 percent of people infected with the virus will have no symptoms.
There are no medications to treat or vaccines to prevent West Nile virus infection. People over 50 years old and those with other health issues are at a higher risk of becoming seriously ill or dying when they become infected with the virus. People with symptoms and who suspect West Nile virus infection should contact their healthcare provider.
For current case counts, visit www.dshs.state.tx.us/news/updates.shtm. For disease background and more information, visit www.dshs.state.tx.us/idcu/disease/arboviral/westNile/.