West Nile Virus Hits El Paso
El Paso — The nation is buzzing about West Nile Virus. New numbers from the Centers for Disease Control show cases of the virus have doubled in the U.S. in just the last week.
In North Carolina, Betty West's 65 year old husband was the first person in that state to die from West Nile Virus. "He had gotten so weak that we could barely get him out of the house," she said.
And the North Carolina man isn't alone. More than 1100 West Nile cases have been reported across 38 states. Forty-one people have died. Almost half of those cases are here in Texas where the death toll now stands at 28.
"Everybody just needs to remain calm. I know it's really bad in the Dallas, Fort Worth area. The good thing about he drought here is that the mosquito population hasn't had a reason to get going this year so far, said Michael Hill, El Paso's Public Health Director.
Here in El Paso there have been only three confirmed cases of this year. That's actually down from seven cases in 2011 and seven in 2010. However, with rain in the forecast and more than a month of West Nile season left to go, health officials warn that could change.
"Certainly it's not like every mosquito that bites has West Nile and are going to pass it on, but the more mosquito bites you get the more your odds you might get bit by one carrying West Nile or some other virus," said West.
There are measures you can take to protect yourself. Wear long sleeves when the mosquitoes are bad.
Use bug spray, and make sure there are no holes on your window screens. Also, clean your animal's water bowls daily so that mosquitoes can't grow larvae and breed in them.
"We want people to take action, protect themselves, family, neighbors, etc. This is going take a village to get through," said Brandon Bennett, an official in Fort Worth, Texas.
Most people who contract West Nile Virus don't even know it. Eighty percent of all cases are minor. The symptoms typically include fever, headaches, and body aches. As for pets, no dogs or cats have ever contracted West Nile Virus. Horses can get it, but there is a vaccine for horses.