Complete coverage of the West Nile virus in North Texas

West Nile Virus Threat for Summer in Texas Unknown

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    NEWSLETTERS

    NBC10.com

    A cooler-than-normal spring has slowed the breeding season for mosquitoes, but experts warn this doesn't mean that Texans should let down their guard when it comes to protecting themselves from the West Nile virus.

    The threat of West Nile virus this summer is unknown. So far, the state's health department has had no reports of it in humans, though mosquitoes with the virus have been found in Harris, Montgomery and Dallas counties.

    Even though breeding is about a month behind schedule, a good amount of rainfall after several dry years means the threat is there.

    "We're certainly seeing more mosquitoes, and this is the time of year that we expect to see West Nile infections," health department spokesman Chris Van Deusen said.

    West Nile virus, which mosquitoes spread from birds to people, was first diagnosed in Uganda in 1937, but no cases were reported in the U.S. until 1999 in New York. The virus gradually spread across the country.

    Only about 1 in 5 infected people get sick. Early symptoms can include fever, headache and body aches. Some recover in a matter of days. But 1 in 150 infected people will develop severe symptoms including neck stiffness, disorientation, coma and paralysis.

    In 2012, the virus killed 89 people in Texas and sickened 1,868 -- the worst year ever for the state. Last year, there were 14 deaths and 183 cases of illness.

    The southern house mosquito, which carries West Nile, will be around at dusk and dawn but is most active from 9 p.m. to midnight, said Joon Lee, a medical entomologist at the University of North Texas Health Science Center in Fort Worth.

    To decrease the threat, health officials recommend draining standing water around homes and businesses, donning long pants and sleeves, and using insect repellent.

    Texas' persistent dry conditions the past couple of years don't necessarily mean fewer mosquitoes. Baylor University biologist and mosquito researcher Richard Duhrkopf said mosquitoes can still find puddles, which contain foul water.

    There are "not as many puddles but the water is dirtier and thus support those mosquitoes better," he said.

    Lee, who does regular mosquito checks at 62 locations around Fort Worth, said cities' storm systems get plenty of runoff from sprinklers in times of drought, creating stagnant water -- and good breeding environments -- for mosquitoes. He attributes the high number of West Nile cases in 2012 to this.

    While West Nile is the virus people are more familiar with, health officials nationwide are looking ahead to be prepared for the next mosquito-borne virus.

    The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is also asking states to be on the lookout for chikungunya virus.

    The CDC website says that as of June 24, there were no locally transmitted cases of the virus, but outbreaks have occurred in countries in Africa, Asia, Europe, and the Indian and Pacific Oceans. In late 2013, the virus was first found in the Caribbean.

    The two types of mosquitoes that carry the chikungunya virus are in Texas.
     


    West Nile Virus:
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