An Arlington man in his late 70s became the second West Nile death in Tarrant County since the season began in May, a health official said Wednesday.The man, who died Saturday, had underlying medical issues, said Dr. Anita Kurian, associate director of Tarrant County Public Health. He was diagnosed in late September with West Nile neuroinvasive disease, which is the more severe form of the infection.“He was in the hospital slightly more than a week,” Kurian said.The man, who was not identified, “had no history of traveling” and there was a recent positive mosquito sample from the south Arlington area where he lived, Kurian said. His was Tarrant County’s fifth West Nile case in 2013.A Fort Worth man in his 30s, who died from the disease in early September, also had underlying medical conditions. It isn’t uncommon to “see bad outcomes in people who have underlying medical issues,” Kurian said.The West Nile season typically runs through October, with cases peaking in July and August. But last year’s 280 cases continued to trickle in all the way to December, Kurian said.“By this time last year, we had 267 cases and 11 deaths,” Kurian said.As of Oct. 8, Texas has had 89 cases of West Nile illness this year, resulting in six deaths, said the Department of State Health Services. Eight of those cases and one death were in Dallas County. El Paso has had the highest number of cases, at 13, but no deaths.As of Sept. 24, there had been 1,135 West Nile virus cases and 44 deaths in 45 states this year, according to the Centers for Disease Control. Colorado had the most with 197, followed by California with 176, and South Dakota with 106.Due to the government shutdown the CDC’s West Nile statistics have not been recently updated.The best advice for not becoming part of those statistics also hasn’t changed: Don’t get bitten.Though people over 50 years old and and those with existing illnesses are at highest risk from the disease, “it’s important to remember that all of us are at risk,” Kurian said. “The best thing to do to avoid the disease is to avoid mosquitoes. So long as we continue to have warm temperatures it’s important to remain vigilant.”Mosquito activity won’t decrease until outdoor temperatures drop below 50 consistently, Kurian said. The problem has been that cooler temperatures have been followed by days back in the 80s, she said.In colder weather, mosquitoes “become sluggish and the virus replication slows down,” Kurian said. “With hard freezes they have the capability of going dormant through the winter season.” This report includes material from the Star-Telegram archives.
Terry Evans, 817-390-7620 Twitter: @fwstevans