With the first Texas case of West Nile virus reported this year in El Paso, the Texas Department of State Health Services reminds people to take precautions to prevent mosquito bites and transmission of the potentially deadly disease.
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.
The City of Denton reported Friday that one mosquito sample tested positive for California serogroup viruses. Viruses from this serogroup are not observed very often in Texas, and only five mosquito pools have tested positive statewide since 2009. The mosquito that contained the virus is a floodwater mosquito, Aedes trivittatus, which is rarely captured in Denton.
Since this mosquito uses floodwaters from rain events as habitat for completing its life cycle, the overall numbers of this mosquito should diminish greatly as we enter the dry summer months.
To reduce exposure to West Nile and other mosquito-borne viruses you should:
* 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, though West Nile virus is primarily transmitted by “Culex” mosquitoes, which are most active around dawn and dusk, and 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 when they become infected with the virus. If people have symptoms and suspect West Nile virus infection, they should contact their healthcare provider.
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.