Take steps to prevent West Nile

Cases of West Nile virus continue to be discovered across Texas, including the Permian Basin. Recently, four cases were reported in Andrews and four in Midland/Ector County, with numbers continuing to change daily. However, those numbers are small in comparison to the number of cases being seen throughout the state. According to the Texas Department of State Health Services, there have been 586 cases reported in Texas this year. Out of those cases, there have been 21 fatalities. No cases have been reported in Howard County. “The health department keeps us updated on the newest cases and none have been reported at this time,” said Yvette Woody, MSN/Ed, RN Risk Manager/Quality Coordinator/IC at Scenic Mountain Medical Center.Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is reporting 2012 is turning out to be the largest outbreak of West Nile virus in the United States. Cases are spanning 38 states and totaling 1,118 with 42 deaths reported. Texas is being marked as the epicenter of the outbreak. “The best thing people can do at this point is to use insect repellent while outdoors and, if possible, avoid going outdoors at dusk or dawn,” Woody said. Other ways to reduce the presence of mosquitoes are to reduce the amount of stagnant water around residences and businesses. In order to keep mosquitors out of the house, make sure all doors and windows have screens on them to prevent the insects from entering.“Humans can contract West Nile from a mosquito bite, which is why it is important to take preventative measures to keep them off you,” she said. West Nile is a virus first identified in 1937 in eastern Africa. The first case was discovered in New York in 1999. Mosquitoes contract the virus from feeding on infected birds and mammals.The intensity of West Nile activity in Texas is affected by the weather, number of birds and mosquitoes spreading the virus and human behavior, according to information provided by the Department of State Health Services in a press release. “At this point, physicians are prepared to conduct the West Nile test if the symptoms are present,” Woody said. “Symptoms can include stiff neck, visual problems, body tremors, mental confusion, memory loss and seizures.“We are always here for our community and prepared for any emergency situation which may occur in our area.”At this point, Woody said the best practice to combat West Nile is providing education to the public on the issue and treating the symptoms as soon as they show up.