West Nile case found in Milam

First one in five years; mosquito control urged
Reporter Editor

Milam County has recorded a case of the sometimes deadly West Nile Virus, the first confirmed case in the county since 2007.

Michelle Ferguson, Public Health Preparedness Coordinator for the Milam County Health Department, said positive cases are reported automatically to the department by healthcare providers.

She can’t reveal any details of the Milam case, including the area of the county, due to healthcare privacy laws.

“This basically means someone who listed a Milam County address was tested by a healthcare provider somewhere, whether it was in the county or out of it, and the test came back positive for the virus,” Ferguson told The Reporter.

“There’s no human-to-human spread of West Nile,” she said. “It’s mosquitoes. You get it when a mosquito that’s bitten something with the virus bites you.”

Since there’s no real cure, that’s why mosquito control is the key to preventing the spread of West Nile, according to health officials.

TEXAS WNV—The 2012 outbreak of West Nile Virus has been focused on Texas.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, as of Monday there had been 723 confirmed cases of West Nile in Texas, about half the cases in the United States.

Thirty Texas deaths have been reported.

Hardest hit has been the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex. There have been 12 deaths from WNV in Dallas County alone.

Metroplex officials are providing a large-scale aerial spraying program in an attempt to kill mosquitoes which might spread the disease.

Earlier this month an elderly Bell County resident died of the disease.

“Most of the people who have been listed as deaths from WNV had serious medical conditions before contracting the disease,” Ferguson said.

TRICKY—WNV is a tricky disease for a number of reasons, not the least of which is that most who have it don’t manifest any symptoms.

According to the CDC, 80 percent of the persons infected with WNV don’t get sick.

The remaining 20 percent have symptoms common to many diseases, such as fever, nausea, head and body aches and vomiting.

But about one in 150 will develop severe illness with symptoms including high fever, disorientation, vision loss, numbness, paralysis, even comas.

These symptoms may last several weeks, and neurological effects may be permanent, according to the CDC.

The most serious cases, which can be fatal, may develop into forms of encephalitis and meningitis.

“A blood test can determine whether a person has been infected with WNV,” Ferguson said. “I’d imagine, with all the publicity about WNV in Texas, that a lot more people are getting tested this year than in previous years.”

There is no specific treatment for WNV, Ferguson said.

NO BIRDS—In 2007, health officials also tested birds for WNV, but that’s no longer done.

“You still shouldn’t handle dead birds, if you find one on the ground,” Ferguson said. “Of couse, that’s good advice any time.”

How To Fight West Nile

• Use insect repellent containing DEET, picaridin or oil of lemon eucalyptus.

• Dress in long sleeves and long pants when you are outside.

• Stay indoors at dusk and dawn, when mosquitoes are most active.

• Drain standing water where mosquitoes breed. Common breeding sites include old tires, flowerpots and clogged rain gutters.

• Change the water in pet dishes and replace the water in bird baths weekly.

• Drill holes in tire swings so water drains out.

• Keep children’s wading pools empty and on their sides when they aren’t being used.

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2012-08-30 digital edition

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