Austin has found 14 pools of mosquitoes carrying West Nile virus in Travis County and two probable cases of the disease among residents this summer, the city’s public health department said Tuesday.
The most common mosquito-borne disease in the U.S., West Nile virus spreads through a bite from an infected mosquito.
Most people who become infected won’t get sick; only about 20% of people who are infected develop fever and flu-like symptoms, according to Austin Public Health. People over 50 are at a higher risk for severe disease, which could include stiffness, coma, vision loss and paralysis.
“While COVID-19 is at the forefront of everyone’s minds, we need to remember the many other diseases that are commonly present in our community, including West Nile Virus,” APH Chief Epidemiologist Janet Pichette said in a press release.
So far, positive pools have been found in the following ZIP codes: 78701, 78722, 78728, 78751 and 78756.
There hasn’t been a significant outbreak of this disease in the last few years, APH says. There weren’t any positive pools or cases reported in Travis County last year. But the county had 153 cases and six deaths in 2012.
When mosquitoes are most active — May through November — the city’s Environmental and Vector Control Program monitors mosquito populations, checking for the virus.
APH says the most effective way to prevent the virus is to reduce the number of mosquitos around you. They can breed only in standing water (in as little as one teaspoon), so draining any standing water around your property limits the number of places where they can reproduce.
APH also encourages people to wear pants and long sleeves when outside, use insect repellent that contains DEET on skin and clothing, and be aware that the species of mosquitoes that spread West Nile virus are most active between dusk and dawn.