West Nile Virus

Following Historic Rains, Houston Residents Prepare for West Nile Virus

The recent rains and floods of May 2015 have left Texas and Oklahoma with almost 40 people dead or missing. The death toll and volume of water “dumped” on the state of Texas were historic. Houston will be cleaning up and fixing damaged homes for many months. And there will be many pools of stagnate water available for the breeding of the mosquitoes that carry the West Nile virus. Typically these mosquitoes breed several weeks after major flooding.

The West Nile virus is transmitted to humans after a mosquito has fed on a bird that is infected with the virus. It is also possible to get the virus from a blood transfusion but that is very rare in the United States due to testing safeguards.

Good News

The good news is that 80% of the people who are infected with the West Nile virus will not develop symptoms or any illness. These people will become immune to the virus after being infected. You odds of becoming infected can be reduced further by following some common sense practices. These practices are:

  • Restrict your outdoor activity at dawn and dusk because these are when mosquitoes are most active
  • Use a mosquito repellent when outdoors
  • Wear loose fitting clothing with long sleeves and long pants
  • Drain any standing water around your home – plant pots, bottles, or other receptacle

Bad News

The bad news is that 20% of the people who are infected with the West Nile virus will develop symptoms and an illness. Roughly 1% of all infected people will develop a brain or spinal cord disease due to the West Nile virus and it is very serious. These diseases are sometimes called “neuroinvasive” West Nile virus. Of this 1% who become ill, one in ten will die. Others who become ill can permanently develop one or more weak or paralyzed limbs. So this is a disease that should be taken very seriously.

As with most diseases the young, the elderly and those with health issues are at greatest risk from the West Nile virus. These people should be the most careful about exposure to mosquitoes during the summer months.

Common Symptoms of West Nile Virus

Below are the most common symptoms for West Nile virus. However, also listed are more serious symptoms that usually indicate a more serious illness.

  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Fatigue

Other Symptoms in Some Cases

  • Eye Pain
  • Swollen lymph glands
  • Skin Rash on the mid-section of the body

More Serious Symptoms Indicating Brain or Spinal Cord Infection

  • Stiff neck
  • Mental confusion or sluggishness
  • Convulsions
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Weak or paralyzed limb(s)
  • Tremors

Treatment

Unfortunately, there is no specific treatment or drug for the West Nile virus. Those who become ill are usually hospitalized in intensive care. Should you suspect that you may have contracted the virus then you should visit your doctor immediately.

The West Nile virus is found throughout the continental United States and is most present during the summer months. However, the worst months for infection are August and September.

Call today should you have any questions about West Nile virus.

Enterovirus D68

What is the Enterovirus D68 ?

The recent enterovirus D68 (EV-D68) outbreak in the United States has had millions of people on alert, with rumors flying that polio might be making a comeback.  Thankfully, the polio part is not true, but here’s what you need to know about this virus to try and stay out of its path.

How is EV-D68 spread?

Since the virus mainly affects the lungs and respiratory system, it spreads to others through body fluids from the mouth and nose when an infected person sneezes, coughs, or wipes their face and then touches another object.

Therefore, frequent hand washing, minimal exposure to sick people, and avoiding contact with your eyes, mouth, and nose are the best methods of prevention.

How common is EV-D68?

There are actually over a hundred types of enteroviruses that plague people throughout the year and cause a whole array of symptoms.  Enterovirus D68 in particular was recognized in 1987 and since then it has been harassing small numbers of people annually, mostly during the summer and fall months.  This year, however, the virus has been unusually active – about 780 people spread out between 46 states – especially amongst children.

What are the symptoms of EV-D68?

Most people who contract the virus will have typical flu-like indicators:  body aches, coughing, sneezing, fever, etc. The more severe and serious symptoms include wheezing, difficulty breathing or rashes and in a few extreme cases, children have experienced paralysis in their limbs.

Is EV-D68 dangerous?

Yes and no.  For most, this virus is the same as any other flu that makes you feel terrible for a few days and then clears up on its own. However, children with prior respiratory problems seem to be more susceptible to developing advanced symptoms and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has now linked the virus to the deaths of five children and hundreds of others that have needed hospitalization.

How is EV-D86 treated?

On October 14, 2014, the CDC announced a new test that identifies the D86 strain quicker than before, but unfortunately, there is neither a vaccination to prevent it nor an antiviral medication to cure it.

Even though there’s no rapid treatment, those exhibiting enterovirus D68 symptoms should get checked out and tested by their doctor. If infected, medical professionals can provide intensive respiratory support and monitor patients closely to minimize symptoms.

Laboratory tests available at Bellaire ER.

Ebola Virus

What is the Ebola Virus and are We at Risk in the USA?

The recent outbreak of the Ebola virus has thrown the world into a global panic attack.  And while the disease is very serious, it’s not necessarily similar to the Hollywood glorified epidemic portrayed by Morgan Freeman in Outbreak and it doesn’t always result in a terrible hemorrhaging death.

A Quick History Lesson

The Ebola virus was first recognized in 1976 in Zaire, Africa and was thought to be transmitted from monkeys into humans thanks to bats.  There are actually four different strains of the disease that are dangerous: Bundibugyo virus (BDBV), Sudan virus (SUDV), Taï Forest virus (TAFV), and one called simply, Ebola virus (EBOV, formerly Zaire Ebola virus).  However, the last one, simply called the Ebola virus, is the one that’s the most terrifying to humans.

Since rearing its ugly head in the seventies, Ebola has been considered rare and only diagnosed in about 2,360 people and resulted in 1,548 deaths.  What makes the recent eruption so startling is the rapid spread of the disease, which has already claimed over 6,000 victims in five countries and caused almost 3,000 mortalities in a matter of months.

What are the Symptoms of the Ebola Virus?

Ebola is spread through contact with an infected human or animal’s body fluids.  The symptoms of the disease can surface within a few days of contraction and generally feel like a bad flu; body sweats, fever, joint pain, vomiting, and diarrhea.  Unfortunately, about 50% of patients will experience bleeding from their mucous membranes (eyes, nose, gums, genitalia, gastro tract, etc.) and may have large rashes or hematomas throughout their body.

While the hemorrhaging is definitely not a good sign, it’s not necessarily a death sentence unless since Ebola only kills about half of its victims.  If you make it past the two week mark, then there’s a very good chance of survival, although a long, slow recovery is imminent.

Is the USA at a high risk for an Ebola epidemic?

In short, no, not at this time.  The US is not considered at high risk, although President Obama did recently declare it a “security threat”.  A large reason for the current Ebola outbreak in Africa is due to the lack of adequate healthcare, since the disease requires a very high level of cleanliness and sterilization to isolate and contain those infected.

So for now, there’s no need to start wearing a mask and gloves on a daily basis, although you might want to postpone that trip to West Africa for the time being.