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The West Nile virus has officially reached Wise County.
The Texas Department of State Health Services (TDSHS) confirmed this week that a Wise County resident tested positive for West Nile neuroinvasive disease (WNND). A spokesperson with the TDSHS declined to provide any more information, such as if the victim was male or female and where he or she lives or contracted the virus, citing patient privacy laws.
WNND is the more serious of the two forms of the illness, with West Nile fever being the milder form.
Dr. Shelley Stonecipher, Zoonosis Control Veterinarian with the Texas Department of State Health Services, said that although she couldn’t confirm where the Wise County resident was infected, local residents need to be aware of the risks.
“West Nile is throughout the North Texas area,” she said. “People need to take precautions. … Just because a person lives in “XYZ” zip code, that doesn’t mean they were exposed there.”
Anyone can become infected, Stonecipher said, although those most at risk include people over the age of 50 and those with weaker immune systems.
Statewide, the number of West Nile cases this year has increased substantially from the past few years. Stonecipher said that although the reasons for the increase are complex and are constantly being studied, it basically comes down to the fact there are more mosquitoes this year.
Human cases of West Nile have been confirmed this year in 31 counties in Texas, including Tarrant, Denton and Cooke. This is only the second confirmed human case in Wise County since West Nile first showed up in Texas in 2002. A Wise County man in his 50s became infected in September of 2003.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) provides the following information on West Nile virus:
AVOIDING WEST NILE
The CDC says the best way to avoid West Nile virus is to prevent mosquito bites and offers these tips:
- When you are outdoors, use insect repellent containing an EPA-registered active ingredient. Follow the directions on the package.
- Many mosquitoes are most active at dusk and dawn. Be sure to use insect repellent and wear long sleeves and pants at these times or consider staying indoors during these hours.
- Make sure you have good screens on your windows and doors to keep mosquitoes out.
- Get rid of mosquito breeding sites by emptying standing water from flower pots, buckets and barrels. Change the water in pet dishes and replace the water in bird baths weekly. Drill holes in tire swings so water drains out. Keep children’s wading pools empty and on their sides when they aren’t being used.
SYMPTOMS OF WEST NILE
About 1 in 150 people infected with WNV will develop severe illness. The severe symptoms can include high fever, headache, neck stiffness, stupor, disorientation, coma, tremors, convulsions, muscle weakness, vision loss, numbness and paralysis. These symptoms may last several weeks, and neurological effects may be permanent.
Up to 20 percent of the people who become infected have symptoms such as fever, headache, and body aches, nausea, vomiting, and sometimes swollen lymph glands or a skin rash on the chest, stomach and back. Symptoms can last just a few days, though even healthy people have become sick for several weeks.
Approximately 80 percent of people (about 4 out of 5) who are infected with WNV will not show any symptoms at all.
HOW DOES IT SPREAD?
The virus is usually spread through the bite of an infected mosquito. In very few cases, the virus has been spread through blood transfusions, organ transplants, breast feeding and during pregnancy from mother to baby. The virus is not spread through casual contact such as touching or kissing an infected person.
WHO IS AT RISK OF GETTING SICK?
People over the age of 50 are more likely to develop serious symptoms of WNV if they do get sick and should take special care to avoid mosquito bites.
The more time you’re outdoors, there is a greater chance you could be bitten by an infected mosquito. Take precautions to prevent mosquito bites if you spend a lot of time outside, either working or playing.