Brown County is still clear of confirmed cases of West Nile virus, and precautions being taken by the City of Brownwood and area residents have helped keep the disease at a distance even as numbers — and fatalities — mount across Texas.
Cases are at epidemic levels in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, and multiple confirmed cases have also been reported around Houston, in East Texas and in San Angelo, Abilene and Austin.
The death toll statewide is at least 47 this year, the Associated Press reported Saturday. Texas has seen about half of the human deaths from West Nile virus in 2012. The deaths in Texas have exceeded the record of 40 set in 2003.
Mosquitoes spread the virus to people they bite.
Jodie Armstrong, public health and emergency preparedness coordinator with the Brownwood-Brown County Health Department, said that the city sprayed the area around Gordon Wood Stadium before weekend football games. Preventative measures such as placing brickettes in mosquitos breeding areas has been under way weekly for several months by Paul Coghlan, health department sanitation inspector.
She recommends using insect repellent whenever going outside.
Potential breeding areas are also being reported to the City of Brownwood as code enforcement violations, Armstrong said.
Similar preventative plans are in the works before the Brownwood Reunion Celebration, which will be held downtown Friday through next Sunday.
Officials reminded residents of the four D’s for protection from mosquito bites and the West Nile virus.
1. Stay indoors at dusk and dawn. This is the time of day that mosquitoes are most active.
2. Dress in long sleeves and pants, loose and light-colored clothing when outdoors.
3. Defend yourself from mosquitoes by using an insect repellent that contains Deet, Picardin or Oil of lemon eucalyptus. Follow label instructions.
4. Drain standing water in your yard and neighborhood. Also make sure that flower pots, water dishes, bird baths and wading pools are drained properly so they are not breeding grounds for mosquitoes.
Through Friday, the Texas Department of State Health Services had recorded at least 523 cases of neuroinvasive West Nile, considered the most serious form of the illness because it affects the nervous system.
That figure was up from the 510 cases of neuroinvasive West Nile reported Wednesday.
That’s already worse than in all of 2003, when Texas had 439 neuroinvasive cases and 40 deaths.
State officials said the numbers are expected to increase through mid-October.
They say there are indications that August marked the peak, especially in the hard-hit North Texas area that includes Dallas and Fort Worth. But since symptoms can take two weeks to appear, reporting cases lags behind when people became infected.
“Even if West Nile virus transmission were to stop today, we would continue to see reports of cases for several weeks,” Dr. Lyle Petersen of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention told the Associated Press.
Federal officials said there have been at least 87 deaths nationwide reported to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention this year.