Texas Reports Year’s First West Nile Case
AUSTIN, May 21, 2015 - The Texas Department of State Health Services is reporting the state’s first case of West Nile illness this year and reminding people how to protect themselves from the mosquito-borne virus that causes it.
A patient in Harris County has been diagnosed with West Nile neuroinvasive disease, the more serious form of illness. DSHS won’t release additional personal details in order to protect the patient’s identity. To reduce the chances of a mosquito bite that can transmit West Nile virus, people should:
“Up to 80 percent of people who contract the virus don’t get symptoms and won’t even know they have it,” said Dr. Tom Sidwa, state public health veterinarian and manager of DSHS’s zoonosis control branch. “But those who do get sick can experience very serious effects ranging from fever to substantial neurological symptoms and even death.”
Symptoms of the milder form of illness, West Nile fever, can include headache, fever, muscle and joint aches, nausea and fatigue. People with West Nile fever typically recover on their own, although symptoms may last for weeks to months. Symptoms of West Nile neuroinvasive disease can include those of West Nile fever plus neck stiffness, stupor, disorientation, coma, tremors, convulsions, muscle weakness and paralysis.
There are no medications to treat or vaccines to prevent West Nile virus infection. People over 50 years old and those with other health issues are at a higher risk of becoming seriously ill or dying when they become infected with the virus. If people have symptoms and suspect West Nile virus infection, they should contact their healthcare provider.
Health officials are also monitoring cases of another mosquito-borne virus, chikungunya. Seven Texas residents have been diagnosed with chikungunya this year. So far, all Texas cases have been acquired by people travelling abroad in areas where the virus is more common, particularly the Caribbean. The same precautions apply, and DSHS encourages travelers to take steps to avoid mosquito bites.
Last year, there were 379 human cases of West Nile illness in Texas, including xx deaths. DSHS will regularly update case counts at www.dshs.state.tx.us/news/updates.shtm.