Public health officials have confirmed the state’s first case of illness caused by West Nile virus in 2021. The disease case, reported by Dallas County Health and Human Services, occurred in a resident of Dallas County.
West Nile virus is transmitted through the bite of infected mosquitoes. Most people exposed to the virus don’t get sick, but about 20% develop symptoms like headache, fever, muscle and joint aches, nausea and fatigue. In a very small proportion, less than 1%, the virus affects the nervous system, leading to a more serious illness that can cause neck stiffness, disorientation, tremors, convulsions, paralysis and even death.
The Texas Department of State Health Services urges people to declare “WAR” on mosquitoes to protect themselves and their families from West Nile and other diseases spread by mosquitoes.
WEAR long sleeves and pants. Create a barrier to mosquito bites by covering up.
APPLY insect repellent. Use EPA-registered repellent such as those containing DEET, picaridin, IR3535, oil of lemon eucalyptus, para-menthane-diol or 2-undecanone.
REMOVE standing water. Emptying water that accumulates in toys, tires, trash cans, buckets, clogged rain gutters and plant pots will deny mosquitoes a place to lay their eggs and reproduce.
People should also keep mosquitoes out of their homes by using air conditioning and making sure window and door screens are in good repair. DSHS urges people with West Nile symptoms to contact their health care provider and mention any exposure to mosquitoes.
There were 122 cases of West Nile disease in Texas last year and 24 deaths, however DSHS notes cases and attributed deaths data for 2020 are provisional.
Over the last five years, Texas has had 805 cases and 63 deaths. Mosquitoes remain active in much of Texas into November and December.
Did you know mosquitoes can breed in as little as a tablespoon of water? Prevent mosquitoes from breeding on your property by taking these steps:
At least weekly, empty or remove trash cans, buckets, old tires, pots, plant saucers, and other containers that hold water.
Keep gutters clear of debris and standing water.
Remove standing water around structures and from flat roofs.
Change water in pet dishes daily.
Rinse and scrub vases and other indoor water containers weekly.
Change water in wading pools and bird baths several times a week.
Use mosquito dunks with larvicide for water that can’t be emptied or covered.
Keep backyard pools and hot tubs properly chlorinated and free of debris.
Cover trash containers.
Water lawns and gardens carefully so water does not stand for several days.
Screen rain barrels and openings to water tanks or cisterns.
Treat front and back door areas of homes with residual insecticides if mosquitoes are abundant nearby.
If mosquito problems persist, consider pesticide applications for vegetation around the home.