West Nile Virus Buzzes Too Close For Comfort

As the hottest months of the year approach, residents of Hays County will begin to prepare for mosquito season to avoid communicable vector diseases like West Nile Virus.

By Katlyn Brinkley

SAN MARCOS, TEXAS — In 2012, Texas was largely impacted by West Nile Virus, a disease that is transmitted by mosquitoes.

There were close to 1,800 cases of West Nile reported in Texas, 153 of which were in Travis County alone. Six of these cases were fatal. Now, many Texas governments are cautioning their residents and providing preventative recommendations to avoid the vector-borne disease.

West Nile is the most common arbovirus, or viruses transmitted through insects, in the United States. Diagnosis of West Nile is difficult to catch in most cases because symptoms will not always occur.

However, 20 percent of people who become infected with West Nile experiences symptoms similar to the flu: fever, body aches, nausea, rashes on the torso and swollen lymph glands in the neck, armpits or groin.

The six fatalities in Travis County were of residents that were over the age of 60, which is the highest population at risk for experiencing severe symptoms and illness.

Less than one percent of people who contract West Nile Virus experience severe illness, which has symptoms like convulsions or tremors, disorientation, and numbness or paralysis. Comas may result from West Nile if the infection escalates.

Dallas County Health and Human Services, Hays County Government and Austin Government, among many other Texas organizations, are urging their residents to start with preventative measures since the virus itself can be so hard to detect. The Hays County Mosquito Surveillance Program page has information about West Nile, and an easy way to remember how to act preventatively using “The Four D’s,” which are:

  • Drain all free-standing water. Mosquitoes can lay eggs in less water than fills a bottle cap!
  • Dress in long sleeves and long pants so they can’t bite you as easily.
  • Dusk and Dawn is when many mosquito species mosquitoes are out feeding, but some species, such as those that carry the Zika virus, feed throughout the day and night.
  • Defend using EPA-approved repellents such as DEET, picaridin or oil of lemon eucalyptus.

While the peak of West Nile occurred in Texas in 2012, there is a mosquito surveillance map for arbovirus activity from 2016 that covers a large amount of Texas land, with Travis and Hays County marked as positive. For more information on West Nile, emergency preparedness and other communicable diseases, visit the Hays County Local Health Department website.


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