By Roy N. Kent | Posted: Friday, August 31, 2012 4:00 am
State and local officials are warning area residents of the dangers of West Nile Virus while Texas is suffering through a huge outbreak of the mosquito-borne disease.
As of Aug. 21, 537 cases of the disease have been reported in the state, with the highest concentration in the Dallas-Fort Worth area with 294 of the cases reported in their associated counties. Harris County has reported six cases while Montgomery and Fort Bend counties have had two reported cases each.
The city of Houston has reported 18 cases, including three deaths.
In a news release announcing aerial spraying in Harris County, Dr. Rudy Bueno, director of Harris County Public Health & Environmental Services Mosquito Control said, “Harris County is experiencing an increase of West Nile Virus infection in mosquitoes and, most notably, in the dead bird population. This situation has prompted the need to supplement the ongoing countywide ground treatment with aerial treatment in the designated areas to better protect the health of our residents.”
HCPHES is encouraging people to do whatever they can to eliminate standing water around their homes, areas where mosquitoes breed.
Among the steps they advise residents to take include:
Remove or empty all outside containers that may hold water such as flowerpots, tires and toys.
Bird baths and pet water bowls should be changed at least twice a week.
Clean out gutters and make sure windows and doors have proper screening.
Cover boats and store them in a covered place.
Turn over canoes, kayaks and small boats to store upside down.
Also, people should protect themselves when outdoors, using insect repellents containing “DEET, Picaridin, oil of lemon eucalyptus, or IR3535 and apply as directed on the label.”
Most susceptible to contracting West Nile Virus are residents more than 50 years old or those with undeveloped or compromised immune systems.
In following reports of the disease, Harris County has reported capturing 326 infected mosquitoes with Montgomery County registering 158 infected mosquitoes. There have also been 96 dead birds recovered in Harris County afflicted with West Nile Virus.
According to the U.S. Geological Survey, “Most WNV infected humans have no symptoms. A small proportion develops mild symptoms that include fever, headache, body aches, skin rash and swollen lymph glands. Less than 1 percent of infected people develop more severe illness that includes meningitis (inflammation of one of the membranes covering the brain and spinal cord) or encephalitis.”
The symptoms of these illnesses can include headache, high fever, neck stiffness, stupor, disorientation, coma, tremors, convulsions, muscle weakness, and paralysis. Of the few people that develop encephalitis, a small proportion die but, overall, this is estimated to occur in less than 1 out of 1,000 infections.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has “declared the current outbreak of West Nile Virus the largest on record, with 38 states reporting 1,118 infections, including 41 deaths.”