Texas’ first case of West Nile virus for 2016 reported in El Paso

The state of Texas’ first case of West Nile virus for 2016 has been reported by the City of El Paso Department of Public Health, according to the Texas Department of  State Health Services. El Paso reported the case Thursday.

With the first case of the mosquito-borne virus reported, DSHS is reminding people to take precautions to prevent mosquito bites and transmission of the potentially deadly disease.

Recent focus in the state has been on the Zika virus, an illness relatively new to the Western Hemisphere that has not been transmitted by mosquitoes in Texas. Health officials continue to prepare for the possibility that Zika could spread in Texas. Meanwhile, West Nile has made a return this year.

In 2015, West Nile virus caused 275 reported cases of illness in the state and 16 deaths.

DSHS is reminding Texans to reduce exposure to West Nile and other mosquito-borne viruses people by:

  • Using an EPA-approved insect repellent, such as those containing DEET, picaridin, IR3535 or oil of lemon eucalyptus/para-menthane-diol. Follow the instructions on the label and use repellent every time going outside.
  • Regularly draining standing water, including water collecting in empty cans, tires, buckets, clogged rain gutters and saucers under potted plants. Mosquitoes that spread West Nile virus breed in stagnant water.
  • Wearing long sleeves and pants when outside.
  • Use air conditioning and make sure screens on all doors and windows are in good condition to keep mosquitoes from entering the home.

The same precautions will also help prevent Zika, the department said, although West Nile virus is primarily transmitted by Culex mosquitoes, which are most active around dawn and dusk; and Zika is spread by Aedes mosquitoes, which usually bite during the day.

There are no medications to treat or vaccines to prevent the West Nile virus infection. People more than 50 years old and those with other health issues are at a higher risk of becoming seriously ill or dying when infected with the virus. If anyone has symptoms and suspects a West Nile virus infection, they should contact their healthcare provider.

Symptoms of West Nile fever include headache, fever, muscle and joint aches, nausea and fatigue. A more serious form of the illness, West Nile neuroinvasive disease, can also cause neck stiffness, disorientation, tremors, convulsions, paralysis and coma.

DSHS will post West Nile case counts by county at dshs.state.tx.us/news/updates.shtm.