DALLAS County, The West Nile Virus has been declared well into Risk Level 5 in Dallas, and is on the way to Risk Level 6, which is an emergency level. As of Friday July 27, there were 174 confirmed cases of West Nile Virus in Dallas, Tarrant, Collin, and Denton counties, with about half of them in Dallas County, WFAA news reports.
To help deal with this health emergency, authorities are promoting public education about the virus and have been spraying from trucks during the night for weeks now. There may also be spraying from the air. We still have two months of summer to go, and the situation isn’t improving. The CDC (Center for Disease Control) reports that West Nile virus does not spread between humans.
Symptoms can be noticed 3-14 days after the bite, although most of those who have become infected don’t show symptoms. Symptoms, when they do appear can include fever, head and muscle aches, skin rash on the trunk of the body, and swollen lymph glands.
According to Collin County Health Care Services, there are currently three cases in the city of Allen. There was also one person reported to have the virus in Cleburne, and six confirmed cases in Garland, reported WFAA news on July 26. According to CBS local news (July 27, 2012), there are now 82 West Nile Virus human cases in Dallas County. Of those, 65 are the Neuro Invasive or more serious kind.
UT Southwestern Medical Center reports “West Nile virus belongs to a group of viruses known as flaviviruses, commonly found in Africa, West Asia, Europe, and the Middle East. Flaviviruses are spread by insects, most often mosquitoes. Other examples of flaviviruses include yellow fever, Japanese encephalitis, dengue virus, and St. Louis encephalitis virus (West Nile virus is closely related to the St. Louis encephalitis virus).
The West Nile virus can infect humans, birds, mosquitoes, horses, and some other mammals. In 1999, the virus occurred in the Western hemisphere for the first time, with the first cases reported in New York City. Since then, West Nile virus is considered an emerging infectious disease in the US, as it has spread down the East Coast and to many Southern and Midwestern states.”
UT SW goes on to report that “West Nile virus occurs in late summer and early fall in temperate zones, but can occur year round in southern climates. Usually, the West Nile virus causes mild, flu-like symptoms. However, the virus can cause life-threatening illnesses such as encephalitis (inflammation of the brain), meningitis (inflammation of the lining of the brain and spinal cord), or meningoencephalitis (inflammation of the brain and its surrounding membrane).”
The more severe form of the West Nile virus (West Nile encephalitis,West Nile meningitis, or West Nile meningoencephalitis), that is present in one out of 150 cases, occurs when the virus crosses the blood-brain barrier. Symptoms of West Nile encephalitis, West Nile meningitis, or West Nile meningoencephalitis may include: headache, high fever, neck stiffness, stupor (a state of impaired consciousness, extreme lethargy, and reduced reactivity to external stimuli), disorientation, coma, tremors, convulsions, muscle weakness, paralysis, and death.”
To be tested, you need a specific blood test for the virus. UT SW Med says “According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), West Nile virus infection in humans is rare. Most people infected with West Nile virus experience only mild, flu-like symptoms that last a few days. Symptoms usually appear within 3 to 14 days of infection.
“When you step outside your door, you need to be armed for battle,” said Dr. Christopher Perkins, the Medical Director for Dallas County Health and Human Services. Insect repellent, appropriate clothing, loose fitting, long sleeves, long pants, light colored,” Dr. Perkins said.
• Apply insect repellent containing DEET (N,N-diethyl-meta-toluamide) when you are outdoors. (If you spray your clothing, there is no need to spray repellent containing DEET on the skin under your clothing.)
• When possible, wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants treated with repellents containing permethrin or DEET since mosquitoes may bite through thin clothing. (Do not directly apply repellents containing permethrin to exposed skin.)
• Consider staying indoors at dawn, dusk, and in the early evening, as these are peak hours for mosquito bites, especially those mosquitoes that carry the West Nile virus.
• Limit the number of places available for mosquitoes to lay their eggs by eliminating standing water sources from around your home.
Three deaths have been reported from the areas of Grand Prairie, Highland Park, and Dallas. July 17, 2012, the death of a man in his 60s is reported to be caused by West Nile in east Dallas. On Monday, July 23, a 76-year-old grandmother fell ill and went to the hospital and was diagnosed with West Nile virus on Wednesday. Last week West Nile took a fourth victim’s life, an 86 year old grandfather who was hospitalized with the virus for two weeks leading up to his death (Dallas County).
“We expect to see more deaths. We expect more human cases,” DCHHS Director, Zachary Thompson, said.
In Dallas, Jill Roark said that when her mother fell ill, she wanted to protect the rest of her family. Roark wanted the city to spray for mosquitoes, but she could not find her neighborhood on the spray list even after calling 311 to report her mother’s illness several times.
“311 told me we had to have standing water to report for them to come out and test a mosquito,” Roark said. “Well, I don’t have standing water, so how do I get them to come out and report?”
Other triggers that prompt “official” investigation include horses found to have the disease, reports of dead blue jays, cardinals, owls, doves or hawks. The city also checks standing water in drainage ditches and vacant lots. The city said it relies on the health department to confirm human cases before it sprays.
Citizens can report a loved one with West Nile virus by calling 311. You can also report dead birds and standing water in vacant lots to have those tested.