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West Nile virus cases skyrocket

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The West Nile virus has infected nearly 200 people across the Metroplex, with at least five deaths reported. And of all the North Texas counties, Denton was the first to report a human case of West Nile in May.

Denton County now has 42 human cases of the virus on the books and some have been serious enough to hospitalize victims.

County Health Director Dr. Bing Burton explained some possible reasons for the increased numbers.

“It may be that one of the reasons that we have lots more cases showing up is we’re staying in real close contact with our medical providers,” he said. “We’re getting very good reporting. We’re getting reports from all the labs and so we believe that we’re just right on top of the cases that are occurring.”

Health officials say the number of 2012 West Nile Virus cases should be considered a major public health concern. Officials with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention believe this could be the worst mosquito season in decades.

“It certainly is possible that we haven’t seen the peak yet. That really remains to be seen,” Burton said. “It’s [West Nile] maybe the disease of the year. It’s not one that we expected to see in such large numbers and so we’re certainly trying to respond to it appropriately.”

Back when the first case of West Nile was reported in the county, Denton County Health Department Chief Epidemiologist Juan Rodriguez made it a point to stress that not every mosquito bite results in illness.

“Not every mosquito carries the virus, and less than 1-percent of the bites from mosquitoes that do have the virus actually cause serious illness.”

Most people infected with West Nile virus experience only mild, flu-like symptoms that last a few days. Symptoms usually appear within 3 to 14 days of infection, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The more severe form of the West Nile virus, West Nile Neuroinvasive Disease, occurs when the virus crosses the blood-brain barrier. Symptoms may include headache, high fever, neck stiffness, stupor, disorientation, coma, tremors, convulsions, muscle weakness, and paralysis.

As of Tuesday, Denton County health officials reported 24 cases of West Nile fever and 18 cases of the more serious West Nile Neuroinvasive Disease.

The symptoms of West Nile virus may resemble other conditions or medical problems. If you experience flu-like symptoms this summer, assume the worst and request a test for West Nile.

Health professionals advise that, to protect against mosquito bites and potential infection, you should:

• Stay indoors at dawn, dusk and in the early evening
• Wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants when outdoors
• Spray clothing with repellents containing permethrin or DEET
• Repair or replace all screens in your home that have tears or holes
• Eliminate standing water that collects on your property

Some of the content in this article courtesy of CBSDFW.COM.

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