by VERONICA GORDON
In our area, there haven’t been any deaths reported according to Rebecca Herring, R.N., case manager for the Communicable Diseases section of the Hays County Personal Health Department.
“As of the end of July 2012, we have two human cases reported of West Nile Virus in Hays County, however Texas as a whole has had 145 cases and two deaths,” Herring said Tuesday.
Herring said the Personal Health Department (PHD) is encouraging residents to take precautions to lower the risk of contracting West Nile Virus, a mosquito-borne illness that can cause serious illness or death.
Beverly Nix, DVM, Zoonosis Program Director for Public Health Region 7 of the Texas Department of State Health Services suggests reducing exposure to West Nile Virus by using an approved insect repellent every time you go outside.
Nix recommends following the instructions on repellent labels (approved repellents are those that contain DEET, picaridin or oil of lemon eucalyptus). Other precautions include regularly draining standing water, such as water that collects in empty cans, tires, buckets, clogged rain gutters and saucers under potted plants because mosquitoes breed in stagnant water. Nix also recommends wearing long sleeves and pants at dawn and dusk when mosquitoes are most active and avoid going outside during those times when possible and using air conditioning or making sure there are screens on all doors and windows to keep mosquitoes from entering the home.
Symptoms of the virus include stiff neck, visual problems, body tremors, mental confusion, memory loss and seizures. A milder form of the illness, known as West Nile Fever, causes symptoms that include fever, headache, muscle and bone aches, nausea and drowsiness.
“There are no medications to treat or vaccines to prevent West Nile virus infection,” Nix added. “People over 50 years old and those with compromised immune systems are at a higher risk of becoming seriously ill when they become infected with the virus. If people have symptoms that cause them concern, they should contact their healthcare provider.”
People with the milder form of illness typically recover on their own, although symptoms may last for several weeks. Up to 80 percent of people infected with West Nile Virus will have no symptoms and will recover on their own.
For more information on West Nile statistics, visit http://www.dshs.state.tx.us/idcu/disease/arboviral/westNile/