West Nile Virus: 1st Case of Mosquito-Borne Virus in 2015 Found in Harris County, Texas, Officials Say

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Texas health officials say the state’s first case of the mosquito-borne West Nile virus has been reported in Harris County. The Texas Department of State Health Services says the person has been diagnosed with West Nile neuroinvasive disease, the more serious form of illness. Officials say to reduce the chances of a mosquito bite that can transmit West Nile virus, people should: – Use an approved insect repellent every time they go outside and follow the instructions on the label. Among the EPA-approved repellents are those that contain DEET, picaridin, IR3535 and oil of lemon eucalyptus/para-menthane-diol. – Regularly drain standing water, including water collecting in empty cans, tires, buckets, clogged rain gutters and saucers under potted plants. Mosquitoes that spread West Nile virus breed in stagnant water. – Wear long sleeves and pants at dawn and dusk when mosquitoes are most active. – Use air conditioning or make sure there are screens on all doors and windows to keep mosquitoes from entering the home. “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. Last year, there were 379 human cases of West Nile illness in Texas, including six deaths, officials say.

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Dan Mullin is an active writer and editor for the Pluto Daily who covered the 2014 Ebola Outbreak. Mullin attended the Wake Forest School of Medicine before leaving to pursue his lifelong science goal of allowing humans to live forever via a computer/brain transfer.