The Galveston County Health District (GCHD) has confirmed the first two human cases of West Nile virus (WNV) of 2016 in Galveston County. Although these are the first human cases of WNV this year in Galveston County, there have been more than a hundred such cases so far this year in Texas.

Culex quinquefasciatus/CDC
Culex quinquefasciatus/CDC

Both patients, a male and female ranging in age from 10 to 19, are residents of the eastern portion of Galveston County and have recovered from the illness. To protect medical privacy, no other information about the patients will be made available.

“Protection from any mosquito-borne illness, whether it’s West Nile, Zika, chikungunya or other diseases, centers on protecting yourself from mosquito bites,” said Kathy Barroso, CEO of the Health District. “We continue to encourage people to use insect repellant when outdoors and do their part to eliminate mosquito breeding grounds.”

GCHD notifies Galveston County Mosquito Control of confirmed cases of mosquito-borne illnesses so the agency may incorporate the information into its surveillance and spraying efforts, if needed. The most recent cases of human WNV in Galveston County were two confirmed cases in 2014.

Most people (70-80%) who become infected with WNV do not develop symptoms but those who do experience fever, headache, body aches, joint pains, vomiting, diarrhea or rash. Most people with WNV recover completely, but fatigue and weakness can last for weeks or months.

Less than 1% of people who are infected will develop a serious neurologic illness such as encephalitis or meningitis (inflammation of the brain or surrounding tissues). The symptoms of neurologic illness can include headache, high fever, neck stiffness, disorientation, coma, tremors, seizures or paralysis.

Serious illness can occur in people of any age. However, people over 60 years of age are at the greatest risk for severe disease. People with certain medical conditions, such as cancer, diabetes, hypertension, kidney disease, and people who have received organ transplants, are also at greater risk for serious illness. Those experiencing symptoms of WNV should contact their health care provider.

GCHD continues to encourage people to protect themselves, their families and community from mosquitos with the 3-Ds:

  • Defend: Wear EPA-approved insect repellent with DEET in it.
  • Dress: Dress in long sleeves and pants when outdoors.
  • Drain: Drain standing water around your home so mosquitos don’t have a place to breed.

“Unlike Zika, West Nile virus is not new to Texas,” Barroso continued. “Remember to protect yourself from mosquito bites as you enjoy outdoor activities.”