Daily Progress, Jacksonville, TX

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May 29, 2013

First documented case of West Nile in East Texas prompts health officials to advise caution, promote repellant use

JACKSONVILLE — Summer is on its way, and Cherokee County residents are urged to take precautions to reduce their chances of contracting the mosquito-borne West Nile Virus.

According to Rhonda Jones, the PHEP Coordinator of Cherokee County Public Health, the first case of the virus recorded this year in Texas occurred in Anderson County, with an adult male presently recovering from the neuroinvasive form of the virus.

“Last year’s West Nile virus outbreak resulted in 1,868 confirmed cases with 89 people dying from the illness – West Nile activity varies from year to year and there is no way to predict how severe this season will be,” Jones warned.

While there are no vaccines to prevent, nor medicines to treat West Nile virus infections, people can safeguard against it by reducing exposure to the virus, she said.

This entails using proper application of an approved insect repellent whenever outside –

“among the EPA-approved repellents are those that contain DEET, Picaridin, IR3535 or oil of lemon eucalyptus,” she said  – drain standing water collecting in vessels around properties so that mosquitoes don't have a readily available breeding habitat; wearing long sleeves and pants when mosquitoes are most active (generally at dusk and dawn); and ensuring that doors and windows to residences hare outfitted with undamaged screens to keep the mosquitoes out if not using an air conditioning system to cool the house.

Jones said the virus can manifest in two different forms in a human, with similar symptoms.

“Symptoms of West Nile Fever, the milder form of the illness, can include headache, fever, muscle and joint aches, nausea and fatigue and may last up to several weeks, (with) most people will recovering on their own,” she said, adding that up to 80 percent of those infected with the virus show no symptoms at all.

West Nile Neuroinvasive Disease, however, is the more serious form of the illness, and “can include the same symptoms as West Nile Fever plus neck stiffness, disorientation, tremors, convulsions, muscle weakness, paralysis and coma,” Jones said.

“People over the age of 50 and those with other health issues are at a higher risk of becoming seriously ill or dying when they become infected with the virus,” she said, encouraging individuals with symptoms who suspect they have contracted West Nile virus need to contact their medical provider right away.

For more information about protecting oneself against the West Nile virus, contact Jones at 903-586-6191, or email rjones@texashan.org.

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