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West Nile Virus Found in Central Texas Mosquitoes

The Austin-Travis County Health and Human Services Department recently announced that West Nile virus has been detected in area mosquito samples.

"The last two or three years ago with the drought, we haven't had a big mosquito problem,” says Health and Human Services employee Eda Gowdy. But the West Nile reprieve seems to be at an end. 

“This year, due to the recent rains, we have had mosquito pulls that are coming back West Nile virus positive,” says Gowdy.   

The summer’s first West Nile-related death in Texas, reported in Dallas, raises concerns about what recent rain storms could mean for Central Texas. But a dose of common sense and a better understanding of the disease might be enough to quiet fears about a West Nile epidemic. 

Jill Campbell at the City of Austin’s Epidemiology Department says that between 2006 to 2010, there have been only one tothree cases annually of West Nile virus. 

While there is only one form of the virus, “West Nile virus has two forms of illnesses,” Campbell explains.  “One is just West Nile fever –  that is a fever, headache, flu-like illness.”

Campbell says people usually come out of this illness just fine, thinking that they have the flu. But others, especially those with compromised immune systems, may be susceptible to a stronger form of the illness. 

“West Nile neuroinvasive disease … is where an individual has a more serious reaction to being infected with the virus and may end up needing hospitalization,” Campbell says. In its worst cases, it can be deadly.  

To keep mosquitos at bay the City of Austin recommends following the "4 D’s":

  • Deet - Use this type of bug repellant on skin and clothes.
  • Drain standing water - It only takes a teaspoon of water for mosquitoes to lay their eggs.
  • Dress - Wear long sleeves and long pants.
  • Dusk and dawn - Avoid mosquitoes most active hours. 
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