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Officials confirm West Nile in Texas

Profile image for By Bj Lewis / Staff Writer
By Bj Lewis / Staff Writer

The Texas Department of State Health Services recently confirmed the first human case of the West Nile virus in Texas this season.

While the person in the case is a man from Anderson County in East Texas, Denton County Health Department officials remind people to stay vigilant against the pesky and sometimes deadly disease.

“The fact that we have a case in Texas still scares me a little because it is very early in the season to be having cases of West Nile virus,” said Bing Burton, Denton County Health Department director.

Burton said he was thankful for the preventive measures the county has in place to monitor the spread of the virus and deal with it as necessary.

In addition to doubling efforts to educate the public on mosquito prevention, Denton County commissioners approved trapping and testing mosquitoes in unincorporated areas of the county last month. Commissioners also approved setting aside $20,000 to pay for ground spraying if any mosquitoes are found carrying the virus.

“Our testing to date has not produced any mosquitoes positive for West Nile virus in the unincorporated areas,” Burton said.

The first West Nile-positive mosquito in Denton County in 2012 was in an unincorporated area.

“We continue to get very good participation on our website. I believe people are accessing information appropriately and I think all of that is good,” he said. “I think the preventative measures that can and should be taken are in place and we have to continue to bring that message.”

That message includes reminding people to drain standing water to keep mosquitoes from breeding, dress appropriately around high-risk areas, stay inside during dawn and dusk when mosquitoes are most active and use repellents containing DEET.

Recent testing in Lewisville and Flower Mound found cases of mosquitoes carrying the virus and city officials took ground spraying measures to address the situation.

The first Denton County human case of 2012 occurred at the end of June and numbers eventually climbed to 184 human cases of West Nile virus, including 129 cases of West Nile fever and 55 cases of the more serious neuroinvasive form of the disease. That total was the highest number of West Nile cases per capita among Texas counties with populations larger than 50,000.

Burton said he could not speculate on the reason for seeing human cases this early in the season.

“I am not aware of cases occurring in Texas in May before, but maybe that has happened. We have a heightened awareness now so maybe that is part of it,” he said. “I think that is a good thing and I am glad to know a case has been diagnosed in Texas and we will all be that much more on the lookout.”

BJ LEWIS can be reached at 940-566-6875 and via Twitter at @BjlewisDRC.