July 3, 2014
The Texas Department of State Health Services
today confirmed the state’s first case of West Nile illness of the season. DSHS
is urging 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, with symptoms that 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. It depends
on a variety of factors including the weather, the 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
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.
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. If
people have symptoms and suspect West Nile virus infection, they should contact
their healthcare provider.
For current case counts, visit: www.dshs.state.tx.us/news/updates.shtm.
For disease background and more information, go to: www.dshs.state.tx.us/idcu/disease/arboviral/westNile/.
(News Media Contact:
Christine Mann, DSHS Press Officer, 512-776-7511.)