West Nile virus cases in Texas present ongoing health risks

After another blistering summer, Austin recently received some much needed rain. However, with rain and cooler temperatures comes the perfect breeding conditions for mosquitos.

Typically, mosquitos are nothing more than annoying.  A bite leads to an itch, and an itch leads to a bump.  However, mosquito bites can occasionally lead to deadly diseases like West Nile Virus.

So far this year, 1406 cases of West Nile have been diagnosed in the state of Texas, according to the Texas Department of State Health Services (TDSHS), 62 of which have been fatal.  That is higher than any year since 2003.

Texas has the highest number of West Nile cases in the country with more than 38 percent of the national total, according to the Center for Disease Control.  In second is Mississippi with just over 5 percent.

Travis County itself has diagnosed 86 cases of West Nile, according to the TDSHS.  This is more than all reported cases in Delaware, Kentucky, North Carolina, South Carolina, Nevada, Arizona, Virginia and Wyoming combined.

Three deaths have been recorded in the county this year as a result of the virus.  This has some students worried.

“I hope that I survive the West Nile outbreak,” senior Ashton Robison said.  “I cannot remember the last time I heard about West Nile this much.”

Although several students have claimed to have contracted the virus, the Health and Counseling Center has not diagnosed any cases themselves. They do, however, advise students to take the proper precautions to reduce their risk of catching West Nile. 

“Remove any areas of standing water,” nurse practitioner Mary Jones said. “Wear long pants when outside after dark and make sure to wear mosquito repellent with DEET, especially at dusk and dawn.”

Jones also wants students to be aware of the intense flu-like symptoms of West Nile.

“The symptoms commonly associated with West Nile are high fever, body aches, stiff neck, headache, rash, nausea – could be a combination of any or all of these symptoms,” Jones said. “If you notice these symptoms please go seek attention from a medical professional.”