West Nile death reported in Wharton County

August 24, 2012 9:49:07 AM PDT
There are new developments in the spread of the West Nile virus across our area. The city of Sugar Land reported its first human case of West Nile virus. That person is expected to recover.

Earlier Thursday, news of a man's death from West Nile, this time in Wharton County. That brings the total number of deaths in the Houston area to four with a total of 26 human cases.

The Wharton County Office of Emergency Management says the victim is in his late 70's and is from the El Campo area. Less than 24 hours ago, Harris County took on mosquitos by air and now the ground work continues all across the area in hopes of preventing any more West Nile deaths.

Whether it's standing outside for a few minutes to pump gas or spending long hours outdoors, for Anne Van Horn, when it comes to mosquitoes carrying West Nile.

"I'm cautious, but I'm not that worried," said Van Horn.

However, hearing about a fourth West Nile virus death, this time in Wharton County, Van Horn said, "I know that's very frightening."

For months, workers all across the Houston area have been fighting mosquitos by spraying on the ground, but with 24 human cases, multiple deaths and more infected birds than years past.

"We've got 97 positive birds," said Dr. Rudy Bueno with the Harris Co. Mosquito Control.

On Wednesday night, Harris County called in help from the sky, a plane dropping five and a half loads of the EPA-approved insecticide over 63,000 acres in northwest Harris County. It was the county's first air assault this year.

"Right now, it's a little over 50 percent of the county has been found with West Nile virus," said Dr. Bueno. "This level of virus activity that we've had especially in Texas I think it's been surprising to a lot of people. I know it's been surprising to us," said

Van Horn says with West Nile numbers high she won't panic, but she will pay attention.

"It's a frightening thing, but I'm not, I haven't changed my lifestyle," she said.

The Wharton County victim had underlying health problems. The county is putting out traps near where he lives.

Andy Kirkland with WCOEM says the man had underlying health conditions and was taken to an El Campo hospital on August 9. He was ultimately taken to a Houston hospital where he died.

In addition, Kirkland says the county has a pending case and they're waiting on lab tests to come back to see if the victim, who is alive, may have the virus.

There are no plans for more aerial sprays in Harris County, but they are still collecting samples and doing surveillance. The county says it will spray again though if necessary.

The city of Houston has reported 13 cases with three deaths, while Harris County has reported six cases with no deaths.

As for other counties in our area, Fort Bend County and Montgomery County have each reported two cases of West Nile virus with no deaths. Liberty County has had one case with zero deaths. Galveston County and Waller County have both had zero cases thus far.

Stay with Eyewitness News and abc13.com for the very latest on this developing story.

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