Numerous reports of one or more cases of human West Nile Virus cases in Brown County could not be confirmed Thursday through the Texas Department of State Health Services.
According to the TADS Infectious Disease Control Unit site, in 2007, only one case of West Nile Virus has been confirmed in the state, and it is for a horse in Collin County. Any confirmed case would be first human infection in Texas this year.
Doug McBride, public information director for the state health agency, said it’s quite possible someone or several people have been diagnosed and are being treated for WNV, but their cases have not been confirmed.
“The state requires two pieces of information before West Nile Virus is considered a confirmed case, and it is not posted until it is confirmed,” McBride said.
The first piece of information is the clinical diagnosis, which is usually by a physician. The second piece of information is a positive lab test, McBride said. According to the Center for Disease Control Web site, sometimes a person will have had the symptoms for as many as eight days before the lab test will confirm the disease.
Because West Nile is a virus, little about the treatment changes between the clinical diagnosis and lab test confirmation.
“West Nile Virus is what we call a notifiable disease,” McBride said Thursday afternoon from his Austin office. “That means, that within one week of the diagnosis, the treating physician is obligated to contact the local or county public health agency. The local agency is required to notify the state office, or, it can work in reverse. The physician can contact the state office, and the state office will contact the county or local agency where the disease was diagnosed, and also the county where the person resides.”
Though West Nile is serious, and can be fatal, the urgency of reporting it is not as critical as a disease that is spread human to human.
McBride said for families and individuals, whether or not a case is confirmed and reported, may not be as important as knowing the risks of contracting West Nile.
“In a lot of Texas, conditions are right. It’s been a wet spring, and mosquitoes are out. People need to do what they can to protect themselves from being bitten,” he said.
According to the Center for Disease Control Web site, people should be aware of their own protection, and how to control the mosquito population.
Suggestions for protection from mosquito bites include:
Apply insect repellent to exposed skin. Generally, the the more active ingredient a repellent contains the longer it can protect you from mosquito bites. A higher percentage of active ingredient in a repellent does not mean that the protection is better — just that it will last longer.
Read and carefully follow the manufacturer’s directions for use. Avoid applying repellent to children’s hands because it may irritate the eyes and mouth
Spray clothing with repellents containing permethrin or another EPA-registered repellent since mosquitoes may bite through thin clothing. Do not apply repellents containing permethrin directly to exposed skin. Do not apply repellent to skin under your clothing. When weather permits, wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants outdoors. Place mosquito netting over infant carriers when outdoors with infants. Consider staying indoors at dawn, dusk and in the early evening, which are peak mosquito biting times. Install or repair window and door screens so that mosquitoes cannot get indoors.
To reduce or better control the mosquito population:
Drain all sources of standing water. At least once or twice a week, empty water from flower pots, pet food and water dishes, birdbaths, swimming pool covers, buckets, barrels, and cans. Check for clogged rain gutters and clean them out. Remove discarded tires and other items that could collect water. Be sure to check for containers or trash in places that may be hard to see, such as under bushes or under your home.