Public health officials have confirmed the state’s first case of illness caused by West Nile virus in 2023. Dallas County Health and Human Services reported that a resident of Dallas County has been diagnosed with West Nile neuroinvasive disease.
West Nile virus is transmitted through the bite of infected mosquitoes. Most people exposed to the virus don’t get sick, but about 20 percent develop symptoms like headache, fever, muscle and joint aches, nausea and fatigue. In a very small proportion, less than one percent, the virus affects the nervous system, leading to the more serious West Nile neuroinvasive disease that can cause neck stiffness, disorientation, tremors, convulsions, paralysis and even death.
“It’s important for people to be aware that there are many diseases transmitted by mosquitoes found in Texas,” said DSHS Commissioner Jennifer Shuford, MD, MPH. “Most of these diseases cause mild illness but in rare instances diseases like dengue or Zika can cause severe illness. We’ve even had a locally acquired case of malaria in Texas this year, which underscores the importance of taking precautions to prevent mosquito bites.”
The Texas Department of State Health Services urges people to not give mosquitoes a biting chance by following these steps 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 out 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 42 cases of West Nile disease in Texas last year and 7 deaths. Over the last five years, Texas has had 485 cases and 65 deaths. Mosquitoes remain active in much of Texas into November and December.
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