Two more West Nile cases confirmed in county

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Two more cases of West Nile virus have been confirmed in Denton County, this time inside the city limits of Denton.

County health department officials confirmed the cases last week. City officials soon will be spraying pesticide to ward off the pests, while health officials encourage people to heed their tips to protect themselves from mosquito exposure.

“We know this is very early for the disease in our county. Usually we’ll start taking cases in July or August,” said Sarah McKinney, Denton County Health Department spokeswoman.

A case of the virus was confirmed in Denton County in late May. Of the three cases, one was confirmed to be West Nile fever while the other two were the more serious neuro-invasive disease. Two of the patients were hospitalized but have since been discharged and one from last week’s cases remains in a hospital, she said.

Cases are confirmed by a combination of symptoms, blood tests or a cerebral spinal tap. The spinal tap is considered the best test for confirmation.

Symptoms of the fever include headache, nausea, vomiting and body aches, and some might experience swollen lymph nodes and a skin rash.

West Nile fever occurs in 20 percent of people bitten by a mosquito carrying the virus.

Symptoms of the more severe condition are high fever, severe headache, neck stiffness, disorientation or stupor, tremors or convulsions, muscle weakness and vision loss, and some may experience numbness, paralysis and coma.

The neuro-invasive disease occurs in less than 1 percent of those bitten by a mosquito carrying West Nile, McKinney said.

Eighty percent of the population won’t experience any symptoms at all, she said.

McKinney said Denton County has had one reported West Nile death, in 2009.

This week, the Denton City Council authorized mosquito spraying when there are human cases in close proximity, both in space and time. Now at risk level 5, which is the highest for Denton, the city can begin spraying for adult mosquitoes in addition to distributing more pesticide designed to kill mosquito larvae. Officials also authorized spraying when mosquitoes test positive for the virus for three or more consecutive weeks. 

In addition to the human cases, mosquitoes trapped near Texas Street and Mingo Road have tested positive for three consecutive weeks, according to Ken Banks, the city’s director of environmental services and sustainability. 

Once a spraying route is determined, the city will give neighborhoods about 48 hours’ notice, according to city spokeswoman Kiersten Dieterle.

In addition to traditional media outlets and posting information on its website, the city will distribute door hangers and use its 311 system to call residents with details of when and where spraying will occur, she said.

Health officials don’t have a prediction on the number of cases that will be seen this year.

“We’ll have to wait and see and hope our residents are doing everything to prevent it,” McKinney said.

The health department recently released a reminder of the tips residents can use to avoid mosquito exposure. Those tips include draining standing water around their homes to reduce mosquito breeding grounds, dressing in pants and long sleeves when outside while avoiding becoming overheated, applying insect repellent that contains DEET to exposed skin and clothing when outdoors, and staying indoors at dusk and dawn, when mosquitoes are most active.

BJ LEWIS can be reached at 940-566-6875. His e-mail address is blewis@dentonrc.com .

PEGGY HEINKEL-WOLFE can be reached at 940-566-6881. Her e-mail address is pheinkel-wolfe@dentonrc.com


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