Texas West Nile Outbreak Worsening

West Nile virus outbreak in Texas creating health hazards

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) Texas has been hit hard this summer by West Nile virus. A record number of sicknesses and deaths have led the city of Dallas to declare a state of emergency.

The state has reported 381 cases of West Nile, and 16 deaths. The majority of the illnesses are centered in North Texas, where 200 cases have been reported and 10 people have died.

"Report any symptoms of West Nile to your doctor immediately."

The mosquito-borne illness has affected the entire continental US, with cases showing up in most states and totaling almost 700. But Texas has borne the brunt of the virus.

The virus is seasonal, and typically peaks in mid-August. Public health officials were alarmed when the number of cases at the end of July was much higher than average.

Since July, the numbers have continued to rise. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2012 is seeing the biggest outbreak of West Nile since 2003.

Bruce Clements, Director of Community Preparedness at the Texas Department of State Health Services, told the CDC that he expects by the end of the outbreak, Texas will have had the worst year ever for West Nile infections.

In Dallas, authorities are using private planes to spray insecticide over the city, in hopes of reducing the number of deaths. It's the first time aerial insecticide spraying has been authorized since 1966.

Not every mosquito carries the virus, and not every person who is bit by an infected mosquito gets sick. The CDC says that only 1 out of 5 people, or 20 percent, of those bitten come down with symptoms.

The early symptoms of West Nile are similar to the flu. Those infected may experience fever, headache, body aches, joint pains, vomiting, diarrhea, and rash.

Only a small percentage become severely ill. The virus invades the nervous system, causing neurological damage.

The CDC estimates that 10 percent of those with the severe form, called West Nile Neuroinvasive Disease (WNND), will die. The elderly, and those who have their immune system compromised by another disease, are the most susceptible.

Symptoms of WNND include headaches, high fever, neck stiffness, disorientation, coma, tremors, convulsions, muscle weakness, and paralysis.

Scientists believe that the climate is at the root of Texas' bad bout of West Nile. This year saw a long drought, with enough extra moisture in the spring to provide ideal breeding conditions for mosquitos, according to Climate Central.

Currently, there is no vaccine or effective treatment for serious cases. To avoid West Nile, the CDC advises wearing insect repellant, staying inside between dusk and dawn if possible, and emptying stagnant water from your property.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
August 17, 2012
Last Updated:
August 17, 2012