Take precautions to avoid infection of West Nile virus

Posted Friday, Jun. 21, 2013  comments  Print Reprints

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Public safety and health officials all over North Texas have armed themselves for a battle with a tiny, pesky insect that has proved itself more than just a summertime irritant.

The mosquito, as North Texans clearly realized last year during the area’s worst outbreak of West Nile virus, can be deadly.

Tarrant County recorded 280 virus cases last year, including 11 deaths. Fort Worth had 81 cases and four deaths while Arlington reported that 64 people contracted the virus, resulting in one death.

Tarrant County already has its first case for this year, according to Tarrant County Public Health. A woman in her 40s has been diagnosed with West Nile fever, a milder form of the illness.

Because of last year’s record outbreak, officials have doubled their efforts to trap mosquitoes and test for the virus. They will begin spraying if they receive a recommendation from the public health department.

Fort Worth will add 150 fixed-location and 50 portable mosquito traps, up from 30 to 50 traps last year.

But while the professionals do what they can to combat the spread of the virus, the public is advised to do its part in guarding against infection. Health officials recommend wearing long-sleeve shirts and long pants outside at dawn and dusk, when mosquitoes are most active.

Because mosquitoes can breed in as little as a tablespoon of stagnant water, residents are encouraged to regularly drain standing water, including what collects in saucers under potted plants, buckets, clogged rain gutters, old tires and empty cans.

People are advised to use EPA-approved insect repellent such as those that contain DEET, picaridin, IR3535 or oil of lemon eucalyptus.

Mild symptoms of the infection (called West Nile fever) include headache, fever, nausea, fatigue and aches in muscles and joints.

The more severe symptoms (West Nile neuroinvasive disease) may be disorientation, neck stiffness, stupor, coma, tremors, convulsions, muscle weakness and paralysis.

Because there were more freezes this winter than the year before, officials are hoping the mosquito population will be smaller this summer.

But don’t count on it. Even if there are fewer mosquitoes, still take the precautions, as it only takes one insect to infect you.

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