The growth of the West Nile virus continues to branch out in East Texas. According to the Texas Department of State Health Services, there have been six confirmed cases with one death in Gregg County and one case in Rusk County.
The virus is contracted through mosquitoes that bite-infected birds. The mosquitoes then carry the virus to the next animal or human. Many different animals and humans can be affected by this virus. The chance of being bitten by an infected mosquito is less than 1 percent.
The West Nile virus can be divided into two specific illnesses, the West Nile Fever and the West Nile neuroinvasive disease.
The fever is a milder form of the disease which symptoms can include fever, headache, fatigue, body aches and in rare cases a skin rash. These symptoms are only seen in 20 percent of those bitten.
The neuroinvasive disease is a more severe form, with symptoms including intense headaches, high fever, neck stiffness, convulsions, disorientation and more.
The chance of being infected by the disease is only one in every 150 bites. The virus in most cases have been known to not show symptoms. Many infected humans may never be diagnosed or even see any symptoms. Gregg County has confirmed four out of the six cases of the virus as the neuroinvasive and Rusk has confirmed two.
Howard Stinson, Gregg County supervisor Pct. 1, has issued mosquito spraying at least once a week. The spraying will increase if the population of the insects grow. Rusk County has no existing mosquito spraying program. While it is rare for people to die from the virus, the reason of death is unknown.
Children, the elderly and those who have weakened immune systems are at a higher risk of becoming severely ill. The US National Medical Library states there are many ways to diagnose West Nile virus in a patient, including a head scan and lumbar punction, but the most reliable is a serology test, a blood test checking the count of the antibodies.
The best way to prevent being infected is to avoid being bitten.
The best way to prevent West Nile is to practice these habits, known as the “Four D’s”
- Use insect repellent containing DEET, picaridin or oil of lemon eucalyptus.
- Dress in long sleeves and long pants when you are outside.
- Stay indoors at dusk and dawn, when mosquitoes are most active.
- Drain standing water where mosquitoes breed. Common breeding sites include old tires, flowerpots and clogged rain gutters.