This year’s first confirmed case of West Nile illness in Mitchell County has been reported. The Sweetwater-Nolan County Health Department is urging people to take precautions to reduce the risk of contracting West Nile virus, a mosquito-borne illness.
West Nile illness was confirmed in an adult male who remains hospitalized with the neuroinvasive form of the disease. Additional details about the patient are not being released to protect the patient’s identity.
The West Nile virus can cause serious illness that can take several weeks or months to recover from. People need to do all they can to protect themselves from mosquito bites.
Last year, Texas reported 1,868 human cases of West Nile illness, including 89 deaths.
The West Nile virus has been present in our area since 2002. The intensity of the virus’s activity fluctuates from year to year and depends on a variety of factors including the weather, the numbers of birds and mosquitoes that maintain and spread the virus and human behavior. The season can last up until the first hard freeze of the year.
To reduce exposure to West Nile virus:
• 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.
Symptoms of the milder form of illness, West Nile fever, 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 for several weeks. Symptoms of the more serious form, West Nile neuroinvasive disease, can include those of West Nile fever plus neck stiffness, stupor, disorientation, coma, tremors, convulsions, muscle weakness and paralysis. Up to 80 percent of people infected with the virus will have no symptoms.
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. If people have symptoms and suspect West Nile virus infection, they should contact their healthcare provider.
For updated West Nile case counts by county, visit: www.dshs.state.tx.us/news/updates.shtm . Case counts are updated weekly.