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.