The Tarrant County Health Department is reporting the season's first human case of West Nile virus.
The person who contracted the disease is a woman in her 40s. Officials said that at this time they are not releasing the woman's zip code, which has been standard practice in the past, but that she does live in Fort Worth.
However, the city said due to the confirmed case of West Nile, they will now target zip code 76110 for "enhanced surveillance, education and response efforts" to include breeding sites, trapping, testing and public education. As of this writing, the county has had no mosquitoes test positive for West Nile virus.
County health officials did confirm the woman, whose identity will be withheld, contracted the more mild form of the virus, West Nile Fever.
In 2012, Fort Worth did not have a human case of West Nile virus until June 20. At the end of the year, more than 280 people contracted West Nile virus in Tarrant County, including 11 who died after contracting the disease.
Still No Positive Mosquito Tests
Despite the first human case of West Nile this year, Tarrant County has yet to have a single mosquito pools sample test positive for the virus.
The county quadrupled the number of mosquito traps that they use during the height of mosquito season and started testing in spots as early as February.
But at the end of last week 907 mosquito pool samples had been tested and no positive results. Last year at this time only 18 samples had been tested.
On Friday, Gary Rothbarth, Environmental Health Consumer Services Supervisor for public health, picked up traps in the northern part of the county.
"There is a lot of standing water in here," Rothbarth said near a trap in the unincorporated part of the county near a neighborhood near Haslet. "With all this standing water, we'd pretty much expect this."
There were more than 100 mosquitoes in the trap, results of that sample will be known sometime next week.
It's an example of how the new surveillance program is working to detect the virus not just earlier but monitor it more closely.
"We've got a lot of good testing going on, we're seeing a lot of good information coming in which at the moment its all negative result, so that's great," David Jefferson, Environmental Health Manager, said.
Jefferson says the virus started appearing in mosquitoes last June, so not having a positive test isn't an indication of how the season will go or is all that unusual.
The number of mosquitoes found is on the rise across Tarrant County.
"But that's typical for this time of year," Jefferson said.
Jefferson says the number went up a few weeks ago, then dropped off and is back up. Jefferson and public health officials say the surveillance and West Nile Virus plan will allow for a better response to the virus when problem areas become known.
It's an effort those impacted by the virus, like Ebonie Conner who's daughter is still battling the effects from the virus from last year, approve of.
"It's definitely worthy of applause, but we also, all the communities need to step up the public service campaigns and to let people know," Conner said.
Personal protection is still the best weapon. Public health hopes the increase in mosquitoes and this first human case will increase people's awareness and more importantly action.
"As we see the increase in mosquitoes, we'd like to see an increase in people's efforts to dump the standing water," Jefferson said. "Remove anything that could hold the standing water because we're going to be breeding more mosquitoes."
West Nile Virus Facts
Most people bitten by a West Nile virus-infected mosquito will not show any symptoms. Symptoms, if they appear, are fever, headache, nausea, body aches, swollen lymph nodes and skin rashes.
Fewer than 1 percent of those infected with West Nile virus experience the serious form of the illness. Serious symptoms include high fever, severe headache, neck stiffness, disorientation, tremors or convulsions, vision loss, muscle weakness and numbness or paralysis.
North Texas health officials are urging residents to:
- Drain standing water around their homes to reduce mosquito breeding grounds.
- Dress in pants and long sleeves when outside, but avoid becoming too hot.
- Apply an insect repellent that contains DEET to exposed skin and to clothing when outdoors.
- Stay indoors at dusk and dawn, when mosquitoes are most active.