Ninth case of West Nile in Houston area

The city of Houston is tracking the number of West Nile Virus cases this year

August 10, 2012 9:40:07 PM PDT
Dallas County has declared a public health emergency, with cases of West Nile virus in humans now at an epidemic level.

Meanwhile, health officials in our area are finding more birds and mosquitoes with West Nile than normal. That has them working hard to prevent a similar situation here.

Houstonians aren't out of the woods yet when it comes to West Nile. Just Friday, the ninth confirmed case was reported in the city of Houston, and one of them has been deadly. We're told this ninth victim is a women who lives in northwest Houston.

"We start looking for West Nile in June and we're likely to see it all the way into October and November," said Kathy Barton with the City of Houston Health Department.

In a city and county built on the lowlands of the Texas coast, it is a constant battle to keep mosquitos that can carry a deadly disease in check.

These days, 268 mosquitos traps are set and waiting; half are below ground. So far this year, 279 mosquitos have tested positive for the West Nile virus.

"I will say we are seeing a little bit higher number of cases than we expect to see this time last year," Barton said.

But the county says it's the amount of dead birds that have tested positive for West Nile that is alarming. So far this year, 59 birds tested positive.

In all of last year, only 13 of all of the tested birds had West Nile.

But in Dallas County, folks living there are on high alert. Nine people have died and 172 are reported to be sick. The county is even taking the mosquito fight to the air by aerial spraying. It's something Harris County has done in the past.

"There have been times Harris County has done aerial spraying in our area and it's a little bit unnerving but it occasionally is necessary," Barton said.

Dr. Luis Ostosky Memorial Hermann says North Texas is experiencing what the Houston area saw a few years back.

"My guess that what's happening there, they haven't seen much West Nile in the past and it's finally picking up there," he said.

Because Houston has seen it's fair share of West Nile cases, doctors believe many of us have built an immunity against it.

"They're never even going to know they had West Nile. They're going to think they had a flu or something like that," Dr. Ostosky said.

Again, the best way to avoid getting bit by mosquitos is to wear bug spray that contains DEET. And during dusk and dawn, wear longer sleeves and pants if you have to outside.

Ways to keep mosquitos at bay:

  • Make sure storms drains near your home are clear of debris and any extra water.
  • And at dusk and dawn-- wear long sleeves and pants if possible.
  • Also, use a bug spray that contains DEET.

The city of Houston suggests making sure you're keeping mosquitos out of your home. They said in many reported cases in the past, they have found that the victims where actually bit inside their homes, rather than from being outside.

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