More mosquitoes testing positive for West Nile

September 2, 2011 4:55:44 PM PDT
Are you planning outside family events this holiday weekend? Beware of mosquitos, but not the aggressive mosquitos that bite in the day. It's the tiny and dangerous culex mosquito, now breeding rapidly because of the drought! Normally, rain flushes out the stagnant water where it breeds, but not this year!

And there's a double whammy: the culex is not only prolific, but more of them are carrying the West Nile virus this year.

"My right arm was completely paralyzed," said Cecile Lambert.

But it wasn't having a stroke. Lambert had West Nile virus, then encephalitis, and that's what caused her paralysis.

"I was in rehab for 11 months, three days a week -- 11 months," she said.

Eight years later, her right hand is still weak. She'd never heard of West Nile virus. That was in 2003.

People are infected by culex mosquitoes. Because of the drought, there are more culex mosquitoes and worse, three to four times more of those mosquitoes are actually carrying the virus.

"The more positive mosquitos, the more positive people you're going to end up seeing," Dr. Kristy Murray said.

Dr. Murray doesn't know of any human cases so far this year, but she's worried. Even though not everyone exposed gets sick, some 300 Houstonians have had severe cases and about 30 have died.

"Typically start with a fever, start feeling like they've got flu-like symptoms, and then they can lead on to a really bad headache, really stiff neck," Dr. Murray said.

She began tracking West Nile here since it was first seen nine years ago. And Dr. Murray's discovered something new: People who survive a severe case, like Lambert, may actually get worse years later.

"We found that about 30 percent of people actually have virus still in their body, and of those, about 80 percent are starting to show signs of kidney disease," Dr. Murray said.

Her warning is to be careful at night, when the culex mosquitos bite, watch for those that hide in your house and to use repellant, because no one should go through what Lambert has.

"I was literally almost in bed other than going to rehab for almost a year," Lambert said.

Dr. Murray says she uses DEET repellant and wears long sleeves. And if someone in your family develops flu-like symptoms that suddenly get worse, check with your doctor to make sure it's not an early case of West Nile virus.

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