By Elsa Maxey
The Fort Bend area is not only tracking menacing tropical storm/hurricane Issac as it crosses the Gulf with a coning formation that may impact it peripherally, but it’s also keeping track of the potential impact the West Nile virus can have here. If you see a dead bird anywhere, that’s a red flag warning. Mosquitoes become infected when they bite birds with the virus. The birds end up dying as could also be the case with humans.
Health officials say the tan colored Culex mosquito is more likely to bite at night and indicate that these mosquitoes lay their eggs near stagnant water sources.
Statewide, the number of cases is nearing 650 with a large number of those in the northern part of Texas, and the deaths linked to the West Nile virus continue to rise. Last Thursday, Sugar Land officials reported its first case of the disease involving a woman between the ages of 35 to 44 with no pre-existing health conditions. Later, a child between 0 and 14 years from Katy was reported by the Fort Bend County Health and Human Services to have contracted the West Nile virus accounting for Fort Bend County’s second case. Both individuals were released from the hospital and the county’s health department also reports there have been no deaths in Fort Bend due to the West Nile virus.
Last week, however, news of the death of a Wharton County man in his late 70’s from El Campo added to the number of West Nile fatalities in this area.
Other nearby counties reporting West Nile cases include Harris, which according to a news report this week now has four deaths due to the disease. Montgomery County just like Fort Bend reported two cases of West Nile virus with no deaths.
More cases are expected, and the risk of West Nile virus infection will probably continue through the end of September, say area officials.
Dr. Joe Anzaldua, Sugar Land’s Medical Director and Health Authority, recommends, “Residents should use insect repellent whenever they are outdoors and avoid going outside at dusk and dawn.” He notes that persons over 50 years and those with compromised immune systems are at a higher risk of becoming seriously ill if infected with the virus. “If people have symptoms that cause them concern, they should contact their healthcare provider immediately,” said Dr. Anzaldua.
“If you or a loved one has been recently bitten by a mosquito and are having the following West Nile Virus symptoms: fever, headache, fatigue, body aches, skin rashes and swollen lymph glands, please contact a physician immediately,” said Missouri City’s Emergency Management Coordinator Judy Lefevers. Health officials also say that although the virus can be deadly, a majority of people infected have no symptoms and recover on their own.
Locally, efforts to reduce mosquito populations underway include spraying in Missouri City, which is reported to be taking place every Thursday from 8:30 p.m. to 6 a.m. The city indicates that spraying will continue until the first week of November.
The City of Sugar Land advises that it recently increased mosquito spraying and is working closely with the Texas Department of State Health Services to trap and test mosquitoes for the presence of the West Nile virus. The traps are being used along with the city’s continued larvicide and regular, weekly mosquito spraying operations.
In the meantime, Fort Bend County Health and Human Services asks residents to stay protected by following the 4D’s:
• DUSK/DAWN are the times of day you should try to stay indoors. This is when infected mosquitoes are most active.
• DRESS in long sleeves and pants when you’re outside. For extra protection, you may want to spray thin clothing with repellent.
• DEET (N, N-diethyl-m-toluamide) is an ingredient to look for in your insect repellent. Follow label instructions, and always wear repellent when outdoors. Reapply as you would with suncreen, after sweating and swimming.
• DRAIN standing water in your backyard and neighborhood – old tires, flowerpots, and clogged rain gutters. These are mosquito-breeding sites.