San Marcos Mercury | Local News from San Marcos and Hays County, Texas

by BRAD ROLLINS

Local health officials have confirmed two cases of West Nile Fever, bringing to seven the total number of people in Hays County who are known to have fallen ill this summer with the mosquito-borne virus.

Fast Facts: West Nile virus prevention

The easiest and best way to avoid infection by the West Nile virus is to prevent mosquito bites, according to the Centers for Disease Control:

  • 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.

West Nile Fever is the less severe of two diseases caused by the West Nile Virus. Five cases of the more serious West Nile Neuroinvasive Disease have been reported in Hays County since June, according to the Texas State Health Services department.

Both of the most recent victims were in their 20s or 30s and were treated without being hospitalized, Hays County spokesperson Laureen Chernow said. She said she did not know further details about the two victims, nor the earlier ones, including which cities in Hays County the victims live or work in.

Doctors and health works have identified 655 cases of West Nile Neuroinvasive Disease and 720 cases of West Nile Fever in 82 counties in Texas this year. Sixty-two people have died from disease, compared to two in 2011 and seven in 2010.

Hays County Judge Bert Cobb, a physician, said the surge in West Nile virus is caused in large part by a surge in mosquitoes that have flourished in wetter-than-normal weather, especially in the northern part of the state where West Nile fatalities are concentrated.

“There is a lot of panic involved but you really are more likely to catch a cold than West Nile Virus. Eighty percent of the people who are infected, in fact, show no symptoms at all,” Cobb said.

“The only things we can do are preach awareness of mosquitoes and urge people, if they have symptoms, to go and get tested. The ones that are diagnosed always survive. It’s the ones who stay at home with what they think is the flu for a week or two are the ones who die.”

Symptoms include headache, high fever, neck stiffness, disorientation, convulsions and tremors can escalate to coma, paralysis and death. About 20 percent of people bitten infected by a mosquito carrying the West Nile Virus develop the fever; fewer than 1 percent develop the neuroinvasive disease, according to the state health department.

Three of the fatal cases have been in neighboring Travis County where health officials have reported 42 cases of the neuroinvasive disease and 44 cases of the milder fever.

Guadalupe County has reported a total of three cases, none of them fatal. So far, no West Nile has been reported in Caldwell or Comal counties.

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