Austin Public Health says it has found West Nile virus in a mosquito pool in Travis County.
The virus was found in the 78721 zip code, an area east of Airport Boulevard, west of US 183, north of the Colorado River and south of Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard.
The mosquito-borne virus is among the many diseases Austin Public Health is tracking this summer — rising cases of COVID-19 and monkeypox have also strained the Austin-Travis County Health Department.
“Monitoring mosquito pools is key to keeping the public informed and safe, especially when many people are spending time outside,” said Marcel Elizondo, interim assistant director of environmental health services. “By eliminating standing water and using prevention tools, we keep ourselves, our families and communities safe.”
Austin Public Health said it has not found West Nile virus in humans this year, but in 2021 it found eight positive mosquito clusters in Travis County, and last year there were three human cases in Travis County.
Currently in the United States, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has tracked 30 reported human cases this year as of Tuesday. Last year there were 2,695 cases.
Most years there are few human cases of West Nile in central Texas. Last year, Travis County was the only county in metro Austin with positive cases in humans. In 2020, there were four human cases in Travis County and three in Williamson County.
Austin Public Health monitors area waters for West Nile virus mosquitoes from May through November, when mosquitoes are most active.
How is West Nile virus spread?
Unlike monkeypox, which is spread through close contact, and COVID-19, which is spread through respiratory droplets; West Nile virus is spread by an infected mosquito that transmits it to a person through a bite. There are rare cases of blood transfusion or organ transplantation, either in a laboratory setting, or to a fetus or infant from the mother during pregnancy or through breastfeeding.
It is not spread by person-to-person contact or by touching living or dead animals. Normally, an infected mosquito must bite you to cause a case of West Nile virus.
What are the symptoms of West Nile virus?
About 80% of people infected with West Nile virus have no symptoms. Their cases are usually not recorded because they don’t know they have it.
Most people who develop symptoms have fever, headache, joint pain, body aches, vomiting, diarrhea, or a rash. A blood test or cerebrospinal fluid sample can confirm the cause.
About 1 in 150 people with West Nile virus develop severe disease that affects the central nervous system and may develop inflammation of the brain or the membranes around the brain or spinal cord. These people have symptoms such as severe headache, stiff neck, tremors, convulsions, coma, muscle weakness, vision loss, numbness or paralysis.
People 60 or older are at greatest risk of severe disease, as are people who have underlying conditions such as cancer, diabetes, high blood pressure, kidney disease, or have had an organ transplant.
People with severe disease may take weeks or months to recover, and there may be permanent damage to the central nervous system.
About 10% of people infected with West Nile virus, which affects the central nervous system, die.
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How is it treated?
There is no vaccine against West Nile virus. Most people can use over-the-counter medications. In severe cases, hospitalizations are needed to help with fluids and pain management.
How can you avoid West Nile?
Try to eliminate mosquitoes in your area and prevent bites by doing the following:
Wear repellent: If you’re going to be outside, especially at dusk and dawn when mosquitoes like to have fun, use insect repellent. Those with DEET work best and can be used by anyone ages 2 and up. You can spray on exposed skin as well as on clothing. Use your hands to rub the spray into your face. Adults should apply repellent to children under 10 years of age.
Wear protective clothing: Consider long sleeves and pants. Also, light and baggy clothes help. You can also buy clothing that is mosquito repellent.
Remove water sources: Mosquitoes like to breed in any water. Always dispose of buckets and wading pools. If it’s raining again or you’re watering your lawn, look for water in toys, tires, toys, trash cans, and flower pots. Clean birdbaths regularly and cover rain barrels.
Add mosquito dips or mosquito fish to ponds: They help control mosquito larvae, preventing new adults.
Fix drainage problems in your yard: If you have an area where standing water collects, consider adding a patio or French drain.
Plant these around your yard: Lemon balm, mint, chrysanthemums, calendula, basil, garlic, eucalyptus, lavender, rosemary and lemongrass around your yard. Or use oils and candles with these scents to discourage mosquitoes.
Spread coffee grounds into the soil anywhere there have been drainage problems: They deprive the eggs in the soil of oxygen.
Install lighting around the yard that mosquitoes don’t like: These include LED lights, yellow insect lights or sodium lamps.
Use a patio fan or fans: This discourages mosquitoes from flocking there.
Hire a professional service to handle your yard. Make sure they know if you have pets or children crawling around in the yard.
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