The Texas Department of State Health Services is reminding people about the danger posed by West Nile illness, even as temperatures cool. West Nile neuroinvasive disease cases usually occur in the late summer or early fall. However, the West Nile virus can be transmitted year round.
"Mosquitoes can breed in standing water, so weather can be a factor in the mosquito population," said director of community outreach at Northeast Texas Public Health District. "We encourage the community to drain standing water on their property for prevention. City of Tyler now handles mosquito control and can be contacted if more information is needed on city mosquito control."
So far this year, there have been 228 cases of West Nile disease, including two in Smith County, and one each in Gregg, Anderson and Henderson counties. The cases in Smith, Anderson and Henderson counties were diagnosed as West Nile neuroinvasive disease, the most serious form of the disease that can cause neck stiffness, stupor, disorientation, coma, tremors, convulsions, muscle weakness and paralysis. There have been nine deaths reported this year in Texas. There have been no deaths reported in East Texas.
Last year, there were 379 human cases of West Nile illness in Texas, including six deaths.
DSHS officials say as many as 80 percent of people who contract West Nile have no symptoms. In those who do, symptoms include headache, fever, muscle and joint aches, nausea and fatigue.
Generally, West Nile is like many other viruses that may not lead to an illness but can be dangerous in people with compromised immune systems. In addition, as immunity wanes with age, the risk of becoming ill from the virus increases in older adults.
There is no West Nile vaccine available for humans. To reduce risk of exposure to the virus, health officials urge residents to eliminate standing water and other mosquito breeding areas, making sure door, porch and window screens are in good condition and wear long sleeves and long pants outdoors when possible. They also urge people to use an insect repellent that contains DEET, picaridin, or oil of lemon eucalyptus.