West Nile precautions stressed

June 22, 2013

Eighty-nine West Nile virus deaths reported in Texas last year included a man from Hood County.

The man was transported from Granbury to a Fort Worth hospital, according to friends of the family. The man, whose age was never reported by officials, apparently had been diagnosed as having West Nile on Aug. 13, although privacy concerns resulted in no information being released by the man’s family.

He was one of five confirmed Hood County cases of West Nile.

The Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS) is urging people to take precautions to reduce the risk of contracting West Nile virus this season, which can last up until the first hard freeze.

The outbreak of the mosquito-borne illness last year reached an unprecedented level, according to the DSHS, as Texas reported 1,868 human cases of West Nile illness.

About 20 percent of those who are infected with the virus develop the milder form of the illness, West Nile fever. Symptoms 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 several weeks. Symptoms of the more serious form, West Nile neuroinvasive disease, can include those of West Nile fever plus neck stiffness, stupor, disorientation, tremors, convulsions, muscle weakness and paralysis.

Up to 80 percent of people infected will have no symptoms.

The DSHS recommends these precautions to reduce exposure:

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 or oil of lemon eucalyptus.

Regularly drain standing water, including water collecting in empty cans, tires, buckets, clogged rain gutters and saucers under potted plants. Mosquitoes that spread WNV 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.

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.

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