The City of El Paso Department of Public Health has confirmed the first local case of West Nile virus (WNV) this year. The disease was detected in an elderly man who resides in the 79905 zip code. There were no cases of West Nile reported in June of last year. A total of 15 cases of WNV were reported in El Paso in 2014.
In addition, state officials have identified the first pool of mosquitoes in El Paso that tested positive for Saint Louis Encephalitis virus (SLEV). Saint Louis Encephalitis virus is transmitted to humans by the bite of an infected mosquito. Most cases of SLEV disease have occurred in eastern and central states. Like WNV, most persons infected with SLEV have no apparent illness. Initial symptoms of those who become ill include fever, headache, nausea, vomiting, and tiredness. Severe presentation of the disease (often involving encephalitis, an inflammation of the brain) occurs more commonly in older adults.
“Like West Nile virus, St Louis Encephalitis virus cannot be transmitted between humans. Rather, the source of transmission is an infected mosquito,” said Bruce Parsons, Assistant Health Director.
The City of El Paso Environmental Services Department has begun fogging efforts in order to control adult mosquitoes and will continue treating affected areas as the season continues.
“Residents in El Paso should know that the Department of Public Health and the Environmental Services Department are working closely together to help protect the community from disease,” said Fernando Gonzalez, Lead Epidemiologist. “We do, however, still need them to be diligent in preventing mosquito bites which can transmit these and other diseases.” The best way to avoid exposure to mosquito-borne diseases is to practice the “four Ds”:
• DEET – Use insect repellents when you go outdoors. Repellents containing DEET, picaridin, IR3535, and some oil of lemon eucalyptus and para-menthane-diol products provide longer-lasting protection. To optimize safety and effectiveness, repellents should be used according to the label instructions.
• DRESS – When weather permits, wear long sleeves, long pants, and socks when outdoors. Mosquitoes may bite through thin clothing, so spraying clothes with repellent containing permethrin or another EPA-registered repellent will give extra protection. Don’t apply repellents containing permethrin directly to skin. Rather, spray permethrin-containing products only on clothing.
• DUSK and DAWN – Take extra care during peak mosquito biting hours. Take extra care to use repellent and protective clothing from dusk to dawn or consider avoiding outdoor activities during these times.
• DRAIN – Help reduce the number of mosquitoes around and outside your home by emptying standing water from flowerpots, gutters, buckets, pool covers, pet water dishes, discarded tires, and birdbaths on a regular basis. You can also mosquito-proof your home by installing or repairing screens on windows and doors to keep mosquitoes out. To report standing water or mosquito breeding call 3-1-1.
In 2014, there were 379 human cases of West Nile illness in Texas, including six deaths.