Preventing Common Mosquito-Borne Illnesses Including the West Nile Virus
In a recent report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Texas is in the top 20% of states when it comes to the number of people being infected by insect-borne diseases including those transmitted by mosquitoes, ticks, and fleas.
The Texas Department of State Health Services recently confirmed the first human case of the West Nile Virus for 2019.
In a recent press release, the Texas DSHS confirmed the first case of West Nile disease reported by the El Paso Department of Public Health, “occurred in July in an adult resident of El Paso County. Additional cases reported by El Paso are likely to add to the total once they are reviewed by the state.” Source DSHS.
According to the Texas DSHS,
“There were 146 cases of West Nile disease, including 11 deaths, in Texas last year. Over the last five years, Texas has had 1,305 cases and 57 deaths. Mosquitoes remain active in much of Texas into November and December.“
In this article, we will focus on mosquitoes as they affect the health of people and animals more than any other insect pest, and they are prevalent in urban areas meaning they can affect anyone of us.
Common Mosquito-Borne Diseases in Texas
Mosquito populations exist throughout the state, and unfortunately, our area is no exception. Thankfully, not all species of mosquitoes are disease vectors or carriers; however, carrier species of illnesses like West Nile Virus, Dengue Fever, Chikungunya Virus, and Zika Virus are known to live in Texas.
West Nile Virus
“DSHS urges people with West Nile symptoms to contact their health care provider and mention any exposure to mosquitoes.”
The carrier of West Nile Virus (WNV) in urban Texas areas is the southern house mosquito (Culex quinquefasciatus). Two forms of the virus can affect humans:
West Nile Fever (WNF): Symptoms include: fatigue, headache, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain, back pain, muscle aches, decreased appetite, fever, and about 20-50% of patients develop a rash on their arms, chest, and back.
West Nile Neuroinvasive Disease (WNND): Early symptoms are like those of WNF but don’t include the rash. This type of virus is much more severe because it affects the nervous system and patients can develop encephalitis, meningitis, weakness, or muscle paralysis (commonly on one side of the body), inflammation of the lining of the retina, or a combination of these.
This form of the virus requires medical attention as it can be fatal if not treated properly.
Additional information on West Nile surveillance and a link to current human case counts are available at TxWestNile.org.
Dengue, also known as break-bone fever can be a severe but rarely fatal disease, the more serious manifestations of it are known as dengue hemorrhagic fever and dengue shock syndrome. It is transmitted by the Aedes aegypti mosquito, and symptoms include:
- Sudden onset of high fever
- A severe headache
- Severe back pain
- Severe joint pains
- A rash that appears on the third or fourth day of the illness
This virus is transmitted by two types of mosquitoes the Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus. Symptoms include:
- Severe fever
- Incapacitating arthritic joint pain
Symptoms typically disappear in 7-10 days, but the pain can linger for years after the infection has cleared.
The Zika virus is transmitted to humans mostly by the bite of Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus mosquitoes; however, infected humans can spread the disease through sexual intercourse, blood transfusions, mother to unborn child, and during birth.
Not all patients will develop symptoms, those who do are usually mild and include:
- Skin rash
- Red eyes or conjunctivitis
- Joint pain
The real danger of contracting the Zika virus is for pregnant women, as it has been linked to cases of microcephaly when contracted during the first trimester of pregnancy. Microcephaly is a medical condition in newborns, that results in an unusually small head because the brain stopped growing or did not develop properly.
Stop Mosquitoes in Their Tracks
The best way to avoid becoming infected by a mosquito-borne disease is to stay clear away from mosquitoes, now, this might be easier said than done as those pesky little flying creatures seem to be everywhere this time of year, but, there are some ways to stop mosquitoes in their tracks.
- Wear EPA-approved insect repellent
- Wear lightweight and loose fitting long sleeve shirts and pants when you are outdoors
- Avoid black or dark clothing, strangely enough, it seems mosquitoes love black
- Mount screens on all your doors and windows to prevent mosquitoes from entering your home
- Use mosquito nets over cribs to protect babies especially those younger than two months
- Remove any standing water in and around your house
- Cover trash cans or containers where water can collect
- Avoid foods like avocados, bananas, and dry foods during your cookouts, mosquitoes are attracted to foods that are high in salt and potassium. If you must have guacamole at your backyard party, keep it covered as much as possible.
- Turn on the fan, mosquitoes have a low fly range, windy conditions make it difficult for them to navigate so they will shy away from any windy areas.
Mosquitoes are an annoying reality for us Texans, one we can’t always avoid. If you happen to be one of the unlucky residents who develops a mosquito-borne disease this summer, remember Altus Emergency Centers are amongst the most qualified facilities to treat your symptoms and help you get back to your summer plans.
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If you are ever in need of quality emergency care, you will not have to wait in line at Altus Emergency Centers. All of our ERs are fully equipped and open 24/7.
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