West Nile virus

Amid Coronavirus, Tarrant County Fears Record West Nile Virus Season

Some 60% of mosquito samples in Northeastern Tarrant County are positive for West Nile Virus

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Health experts in Tarrant County are sounding the alarm over the West Nile Virus after a record number of mosquitos have tested positive for the disease.

“We have not seen these numbers ever,” said health department director Dr. Vinny Taneja.

In Tarrant County, 40% of mosquito samples are testing positive for West Nile Virus.

And in the northeastern part of the county, it's an alarming 60%.

"We have not seen these numbers ever. That's a record."

"It's a very early warning indicator that there is heavy West Nile activity in our area,” Taneja said. “It's very concerning. It's a harbinger of an outbreak. It's an outbreak warning."

Two people in Tarrant County have been diagnosed with West Nile Virus. One of them died.

Dr. Sonja Swiger, an insect expert at Texas A&M, said Tarrant County is heavily affected but Dallas County and others are also seeing large numbers of mosquitos with West Nile Virus.

And it comes at the same time the health department is focused on battling COVID-19.

"It's the same groups of individuals that test the mosquitos that are testing for coronavirus,” Swiger said. “That can be a lot for the labs to manage and to find the time to get all the tests done."

Taneja acknowledged resources are a challenge right now and asked for the public’s help.

He suggested people spray their yards for mosquitos using a solution commonly available in home improvement stores, remove any standing water from around their houses, and wear repellant and long-sleeve shirts.

Taneja is not ruling out aerial spraying in coming weeks.

Meanwhile, doctors say it's also a challenge to diagnose West Nile because some of the symptoms are the same as Coronavirus.

"What makes it really tough for us in the community is the overlap of the two diseases,” said Dr. Harvey Castro, president of Trusted ER. “It would be nice if one disease was very specific but there's actually a lot of overlap. As a doctor, I'm seeing both patients are coming in very similar."

West Nile season generally runs through November – just as a third threat, the flu, kicks into high gear.

How to Protect Yourself From Mosquito Bites

  • Dress in long sleeves, pants when outside: For extra protection, spray thin clothing with repellent.
  • DEET: Make sure this ingredient is in your insect repellent.
  • Drain standing water in your yard and neighborhood: Mosquitoes can develop in any water stagnant for more than three days.

It has been recommended in the past that to avoid mosquito bites you should avoid being outdoors during Dusk and Dawn (the 4 Ds). While this is true for mosquitoes that commonly carry the West Nile virus, other types of mosquitoes that are more likely to carry Zika, dengue and chikungunya are active during the day. When outdoors, no matter what time of day, adjust your dress accordingly and wear insect repellent containing DEET, picaridin or oil of lemon eucalyptus as your first line of defense against insect bites

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