Local experts concerned West Nile Virus will spread - KXXV-TV News Channel 25 - Central Texas News and Weather for Waco, Temple, Killeen |


Local experts concerned West Nile Virus will spread

by Adam Shear

WACO - After hearing five cases of the West Nile Virus have been confirmed in McLennan Co., including one case that killed an 80-year-old person, local experts are growing concerned the virus will spread.

"Typically West Nile Virus is a disease that across the country we tend to see much later in the season," said Dr. Richard Duhrkopf, Baylor Biology: Mosquito Expert. "To be seeing [cases] in July means we could have some really, really significant problems."

Dr. Duhrkopf believes weather has played a large role in giving potential virus carrying mosquitoes the perfect environment to thrive in. The weather pattern this year of a few days of rain followed by weeks of high heat has given the insects several areas of stagnant water to breed in.

Prior to this year, there were no cases of West Nile Virus reported in McLennan Co. since 2005. In addition to the five confirmed cases in the county this year, there are three other probable cases, including one person from Limestone Co..

"If [McLennan Co.] weather continues on like it is we'll have a lot more cases," said Dr. Duhrkopf. "I don't see any reason to think that [McLennan Co.] is unique. Bell Co., Coryell Co., Hill Co., should all be the same situation."

The county health district is encouraging people to wear long sleeves, pants, and bug spray containing DEET to help prevent mosquito bites. Central Texas residents should also stay inside during dusk and dawn, because those are primary biting times.

It is also recommended that people empty out any possible areas containing stagnant water around their homes. Areas that tend to be breeding grounds for mosquitoes include: birdbaths, pet water dishes, clogged gutters, children's pools, etc...

"Once they've gone through the yard, go through it again," said David Litke, McLennan Co. Environmental Health District. "Once you've found the obvious sources, look for the not so obvious sources."

The House Mosquito, the most common breed in Central Texas, just happens to be a carrier of West Nile Virus. Unfortunately anyone who is bitten really cannot do much.

"When the female [mosquito] bites she injects saliva into you and that's where the virus is coming from," said Dr. Duhrkopf. "Slapping her and killing her might help you feel better, bit it's not going to stop the virus."

The virus's most severe risks are to elderly people and those with weakened immune systems. Around two percent of people who get the virus die from the infection. Most infected people will not show symptoms, but if they do they should seek medical assistance.

"[Symptoms include] fever, headache, back pain, muscle pain, loss of appetite. [West Nile Virus] can last for days to weeks and most patients do quite well. Some get neurological diseases. Those [patients] are at a higher risk to progress to worse disease," said Dr. Farley Verner, McLennan Co. Infectious Disease Official.

The health district still has not released the name of the 80-year-old victim.

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