2012 slated worst year for West Nile

TYLER (KYTX) - 2012 is on course to becoming the worst year on record for West Nile Virus, according to the Texas Department of State Health Services, and there's still at least two months of mosquito season left. CBS 19's Amanda Roberson has been looking into the West Nile spike and breaks it all down.

In East Texas there have been ten confirmed cases of West Nile. Angelina County has the most confirmed cases. Three people are battling West Nile Virus and one case of West Nile Fever. There's also a confirmed case of human West Nile Fever in Henderson county and one human fever case in Van Zandt County. A horse in Cass County has a confirmed case of West Nile and a bird in Anderson County was also found carrying the disease. Wednesday afternoon, two human cases of West Nile Virus were confirmed in Gregg County.

But these are just the confirmed cases. There are suspected cases of West Nile across Texas and that's why the health district is reminding everyone to take extra precautions to stay mosquito free.

"It's in our county, we know it's here, so any mosquito is a suspect mosquito," said Brenda Elrod with the Northeast Texas Public Health District. 

It's been ten years since West Nile took it's first bite in Texas and now every county is at risk for cases of infection.

Elrod said most people get West Nile Fever, but not the actual virus and among those who do get West Nile, not all infections are serious. "The majority of people maybe as much as 80% of them, when they get West Nile virus they may not even know they have West Nile virus. They may just feel kind of yucky then they're ok."

The other 20% will experience symptoms include headache, muscle ache, nausea, a rash on the chest, back or arms, and it lasts about two weeks. A small percentage will go on to develop deadly symptoms.

"The invasive virus part of it, it develops into more of an infection in the brain tissue which would be encephalitis or the spinal fluid becomes meningitis and so it can be much more dangerous," Elrod explained. 

Christine Mann with the Texas Department of State Health Services said that danger is more likely this year. "Assuming normal disease progression we will outpace 2003 and that was our worst year in terms of numbers of illnesses. We've had about three times as many cases as we did at this point in 2003."

So far, 465 human cases of West Nile fever and virus have been reported in Texas, 17 of those cases fatal.

Mann said a mild winter and steady rains may be part of the reason for a spike in west Nile activity. "Right now we're reaching the peak of West Nile season and so we may be better able to analyze the situation once that season is over."

Until then, people are reminded to follow the four D's: DRAIN standing water, stay inside at DAWN and DUSK when mosquitoes are most active, DRESS in long sleeves and pants when outside if possible and wear insect repellent with DEET, the ingredient that helps keep mosquitoes away.

West Nile is most dangerous for the elderly, small children, and people with weak immune systems.

Horses are also susceptible to West Nile and there's a vaccine for those animals to weaken the symptoms. But because it's a virus, for animal and human alike, there's no cure for West Nile. All people can do is treat the symptoms.

A lot of counties are spraying just before dawn and after dusk, but EPA requirements limit how much they can spray in a certain area within a certain amount of time.

Mosquito season will continue as long as it stays warm outside. For more information on prevention and a map of counties with confirmed cases, click here.


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