Mosquito-borne diseases like West Nile virus, dengue fever, and chikungunya could be a big threat to Texas communities this summer, as the buzzing insects thrive in rainy climates. Texas’ three most populated counties — Harris County, Dallas County, and Tarrant County — already have reported West Nile virus activity.
West Nile virus causes headache, fever, muscle and joint aches, nausea, and fatigue. Its more severe form, West Nile neuroinvasive disease, can cause neck stiffness, stupor, disorientation, coma, tremors, convulsions, muscle weakness, and paralysis. Most people infected with the virus (80 percent) will not have symptoms.
The safest bet to avoid getting sick is to avoid mosquito bites. Texas physicians and the Texas Department of State Health Services encourage people to take these precautions to avoid getting bitten by mosquitoes:
- Use an approved insect repellent every time you go outside, and follow label instructions;
- Drain standing water where mosquitoes can breed;
- Wear long sleeves and pants when outside; and
- Use air conditioning or make sure doors and windows are screened to keep mosquitoes outside.
West Nile virus is no stranger to Texas. In the summer of 2012, we experienced the worst outbreak of the disease in our state’s history. The virus severely sickened more than 400 people and killed 19, many of them Dallas County residents. West Nile survivor and Dallas physician Don Read, MD, president-elect of the Texas Medical Association, shared his experience fighting the illness with fellow physician Dan McCoy, MD. You can view the video interview below.