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First West Nile case of 2016 reported

Special to the Courier

With the first Texas case of West Nile virus this year, health officials with the Texas Department of State Health Services remind people to take precautions to prevent mosquito bites and transmission of the potentially deadly disease. Personnel with the City of El Paso Department of Public Health reported the case to DSHS on Thursday, May 19.
Recent focus has been on Zika, an illness relatively new to the Western Hemisphere that has yet to be transmitted by mosquitoes in Texas. While health officials continue preparing for the possibility that Zika could spread in Texas, West Nile virus has made a return this summer. In 2015, West Nile caused 275 reported cases of illness in the state, including 16 deaths.
To reduce exposure to West Nile and other mosquito-borne viruses people are advised to:
• Use an EPA-approved insect repellent, such as those containing DEET, picaridin, IR3535 or oil of lemon eucalyptus-para-menthane-diol. People should follow the instructions on the label and use repellent every time they go outside.
• 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 when outside.
• Use air conditioning and make sure screens on all doors and windows are in good condition to keep mosquitoes from entering the home.
The same precautions will also help prevent Zika. However, the West Nile virus is primarily transmitted by Culex mosquitoes, which are most active around dawn and dusk, while Zika is spread by Aedes mosquitoes, which usually bite during the day.
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 after becoming infected with the virus.
Symptoms of West Nile fever include headache, fever, muscle and joint aches, nausea and fatigue. A more serious form of illness, West Nile neuroinvasive disease, can also cause neck stiffness, disorientation, tremors, convulsions, paralysis and coma. People with these symptoms who suspect a West Nile virus infection are urged to contact their healthcare provider.
DSHS will post West Nile case counts by county at www.dshs.state.tx.us/news/updates.shtm.