East Texans urged to take extra care against West Nile virus
By COSHANDRA DILLARDcdillard@tylerpaper.com
Local health officials are urging East Texans to protect themselves from the West Nile virus, as Texas has experienced a surge in cases this season.
The region is currently at the peak of the mosquito season so residents must be vigilant about their surroundings for weeks to come, officials said during a press conference Tuesday.
“We won’t be over the risk until the mosquitoes start dying when we have significantly cooler weather and that could be many more weeks,” said Dr. Paul McGaha, regional director for the Texas Department of State Health Services.
With about half of cases in the country occurring in Texas, officials, including those from the Northeast Texas Public Health District, are emphasizing that residents make simple, yet significant changes to prevent becoming infected by disease-carrying mosquitoes.
The basic precautionary measures residents include: staying indoors at dusk and dawn; dressing in long sleeves/pants and with loose and light colored clothing when outdoors; using an insect repellent that contains DEET, picaridin or oil of lemon eucalyptus; and draining standing water in yards and around the neighborhood.
City of Tyler officials began using a larvacide in the spring and started ground spraying in July. They say at this time they do not expect to implement aerial spraying.
The health community is especially urging people with compromised immune systems and older residents to take precaution, as they are most at risk.
There have been 586 confirmed cases of West Nile in Texas this year. About half of those have been in the Dallas area. Of the cases in Texas, 326 have resulted in neuroinvasive illnesses and the average age of those patients is 55.8.
Of the total cases, 263 only experienced West Nile fever, a mild form of the disease. There have been 21 deaths related to the virus in Texas and average age of those patients is 80.3.
The number of fatalities stemming from the West Nile virus has already exceeded what was recorded for 2007, when Texas saw 17 deaths for the year.