West Nile cases down in '13

Published on Thursday, 26 December 2013 21:15 - Written by By Kelly Gooch kgooch@tylerpaper.com

This year has turned out to be dramatically better than 2012 in terms of the number of West Nile virus cases in Texas, according to the Texas Department of State Health Services.

In Texas, there were 173 total human West Nile cases as of Dec. 14, which includes 13 deaths, department spokesman Chris Van Deusen said. Last year, the state had 1,868 West Nile cases, including 89 deaths.

The trend was the same in some East Texas counties. Data from the Cherokee County Public Health Department shows that in 2012, Cherokee County had eight West Nile cases and one death.  Smith County had 22 reported cases, and Henderson County had four reported cases, according to the Texas Department of State Health Services. Gregg County had one West Nile death, according to the Northeast Texas Public Health District.

No West Nile cases have been reported this year in those counties, according to the Texas Department of State Health Services. One West Nile case was reported this year in Anderson County.

Van Deusen said there is not a lot of explanation as to why there was a big increase last year.

However, he said mosquitoes get the virus from birds and then transmit it to humans, so the bird and mosquito populations can factor in.

Stephanie Taylor, public information officer with the Northeast Texas Public Health District, said people also could be infected anywhere. Therefore, she said a person could be bitten in Dallas, but the case gets reported in East Texas.

And Chris Taylor, with the Cherokee County Public Health Department, noted that the mosquito-borne illness could affect any age.

Therefore, he said people should take precautions to ensure that they don’t become a victim.

Among those precautions, he said, are dumping standing water, using insect repellent and wearing protective clothing outside. Additionally, although mosquitoes tend to be less active around winter, dumping out standing water and ensuring that door screens are repaired are things people can do throughout the year, Van Deusen said.

As far as symptoms, everyone’s body is different, and people should take notice “when something just doesn’t seem right,” Taylor said.

Still, he said prevention is key in stopping the West Nile virus.

“Not only can we save lives, but we can save a lot of healthcare dollars,” he said.

Mrs. Taylor said she hopes that more people are informed about West Nile and how the illness spreads.

For more information on the West Nile virus, visit the Texas Department of State Health Services website,www.dshs.state.tx.us .