The Texas Department of State Health Services is confirming three cases of West Nile disease reported last week by local health departments in Austin, Dallas and Galveston. The first three cases of the year are cases of West Nile fever reported by Austin Public Health and Galveston County Health District and a case of neuroinvasive disease reported by Dallas County Health and Human Services.
People can be infected by West Nile virus through the bite of an infected mosquito. Last year, Texas reported 135 cases of West Nile illness that resulted in six deaths. There have been more than 3,500 illnesses and 167 deaths in Texas over the last 10 years.
To protect themselves and their communities, people should take steps to avoid mosquito bites and reduce mosquito populations:
- Regularly apply EPA-registered insect repellent while outdoors.
- Dump out all standing water inside and outside homes and businesses so mosquitoes can’t lay eggs.
- Use air conditioning or make sure window and door screens are in good repair to keep mosquitoes out.
- Cover up with long sleeves and long pants to help prevent bites.
Most people who get infected with West Nile virus don’t get sick. About 20 percent develop West Nile fever, a fever that can be accompanied by headache, muscle and joint aches, nausea, diarrhea and fatigue. People with this form of disease usually recover on their own, though symptoms may last for several weeks. Less than one percent of those infected will develop the more severe West Nile neuroinvasive disease, in which the virus infects the nervous system. Symptoms can include those of West Nile fever plus neck stiffness, muscle weakness, vision loss, tremors, convulsions, disorientation, coma and paralysis. Recovery can take months, and some effects on the nervous system may be permanent. About 1 in 10 people with West Nile neuroinvasive disease die.
People experiencing West Nile symptoms should contact their health care provider for possible testing. There is no vaccine to prevent West Nile and no specific treatment, though over-the-counter and other medications may help relieve some symptoms.
Additional information on West Nile surveillance and a link to current human case counts is available at TxWestNile.org.