So summer doesn’t officially begin for another 19 days, but Texas already has had two reported cases of West Nile virus.
The first case, a woman from Montgomery County just north of Houston, was reported to the Department of State Health Services (DSHS) in late April. The second case, a man in his 40s, was reported by the City of El Paso Department of Health in late May, according to the El Paso Herald-Post newspaper. The man, who has underlying medical conditions, had not reported travel outside of the city, the newspaper reported.
But wait, there’s more.
Mosquito pools positive for West Nile virus have been reported in Dallas, Harris, Johnson, Nueces, and Tarrant counties.
So, what should you do as a physician?
Good question. One of the best things you can do is educate your patients on how to prevent getting mosquito-borne diseases like West Nile and Zika (you’ve heard that old saying about an ounce of prevention).
Here’s what to tell your patients:
- Use EPA-approved insect repellent every time you go outside.
- Cover exposed skin with long pants and long-sleeved shirts whenever possible.
- Use air conditioning or window and door screens that are in good repair to keep mosquitoes out.
- Limit outdoor activities during peak mosquito times.
- Remove standing water in and around homes, including in trash cans, toys, tires, flower pots, and other containers so mosquitoes can’t lay their eggs.
- Use a larvicide in water that can’t be drained to keep mosquitoes from developing.
Everybody got that?
In 2016, Texas reported 370 human cases of West Nile illness, including 18 deaths. Most people who get infected don’t get sick, but about 20 percent will experience symptoms like headache, fever, muscle and joint aches, nausea, and fatigue.
I can tell you have more questions infectious diseases. That’s good. You can find plenty of answers by visiting TMA's Infectious Diseases Resource Center.
If you want more information (and I’m so glad you do), you can also stay up to date with DSHS recommendations at the Health Care Professionals page of TexasZika.org or get more info at the DSHS West Nile virus page.
Action, June 1, 2017