Year’s First West Nile Case Highlights Precautions

News Release
May 19, 2016

With the first Texas case of West Nile virus this year, the Texas Department of State Health Services reminds people to take precautions to prevent mosquito bites and transmission of the potentially deadly disease. The case was reported to DSHS today by the City of El Paso Department of Public Health.

Recent focus has been on Zika, an illness relatively new to the Western Hemisphere that has yet to be transmitted by mosquitoes in Texas. While health officials continue preparing for the possibility that Zika could spread in Texas, West Nile virus has made a return this summer. In 2015, West Nile caused 275 reported cases of illness in the state, including 16 deaths.

To reduce exposure to West Nile and other mosquito-borne viruses people should:

  • Use an EPA-approved insect repellent, such as those containing DEET, picaridin, IR3535 or oil of lemon eucalyptus/para-menthane-diol. People should follow the instructions on the label and use repellent every time they go outside.
  • 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 when outside.
  • Use air conditioning and make sure screens on all doors and windows are in good condition to keep mosquitoes from entering the home.

The same precautions will also help prevent Zika, though West Nile virus is primarily transmitted by Culex mosquitoes, which are most active around dawn and dusk, and Zika is spread by Aedes mosquitoes, which usually bite during the day.

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. 

Symptoms of West Nile fever include headache, fever, muscle and joint aches, nausea and fatigue. A more serious form of illness, West Nile neuroinvasive disease, can also cause neck stiffness, disorientation, tremors, convulsions, paralysis and coma.

DSHS will post West Nile case counts by county at www.dshs.state.tx.us/news/updates.shtm.

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(News Media Contact: Chris Van Deusen, DSHS Press Officer, 512-776-7753)

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Last updated June 10, 2016