EL PASO, Texas (KTSM) – Officials with the city’s Department of Public Health (DPH) confirmed Thursday that two (2) males in their 80s, with underlying health conditions, are the first two deaths due to the West Nile Virus (WNV) in El Paso this year.
“The community needs to take into account that for most people a mosquito bite is a nuisance, but for others it can be very serious if the patient has medical conditions that impair their immune system’s ability to fight infection if the mosquito is carrying a disease like West Nile,” said Angela Mora, Director of Public Health. “As long as we still have mosquitoes biting in El Paso, the threat of disease continues to be present.”
DPH officials say that this year, a total of 13 confirmed WNV cases have been reported to the DPH among men and women between ages 40’s to 80’s, of which 2 have resulted in death and the other patients have recovered. All cases are associated to neuroinvasive illnesses (infecting nervous system).
Human infection is the result of bites from infected mosquitoes. Mosquitoes become infected when they feed on infected birds, which circulate the virus in their blood. Symptoms of West Nile include fever, headache, tiredness, body aches, nausea, vomiting and swollen lymph glands.
According to the DPH, eight out of 10 people infected with the WNV will not develop symptoms. However, 1 in 5 people who are infected develop West Nile fever, an illness that includes a fever and other symptoms such as body aches, joint pain, headache or a rash. About 1 out of 150 infected people develop severe illness affecting the central nervous system and about 1 out of 10 cases or severe illness are fatal. There are no vaccines to prevent or medications to treat WNV in people.
Officials add that people over the age of 60 are at the highest risk of serious illness. Individuals with certain medical conditions, such as cancer, diabetes, hypertension, kidney disease, and people who have received organ transplants are also at high risk.
The best way to avoid exposure to mosquito-borne diseases is to practice the “four Ds”:
- DEET – Use insect repellents containing DEET, picaridin, oil of lemon eucalyptus, IR3535, or 2-undecanone when you go outdoors. To optimize safety and effectiveness, repellents should be used according to the label instructions.
- DRESS – When weather permits, wear long sleeves, long pants, and socks when outdoors. Mosquitoes may bite through thin clothing and it’s recommended to also spray your clothes with repellent.
- DUSK and DAWN – Although mosquitoes associated with West Nile can be active throughout the day, residents should take extra care during peak mosquito biting hours (from dusk to dawn) or consider avoiding outdoor activities during these times.
- DRAIN – Help reduce the number of mosquitoes around and outside your home by emptying standing water from flowerpots, gutters, buckets, pool covers, pet water dishes, discarded tires, and birdbaths on a regular basis. Don’t forget to change your pet’s water bowl daily.
Residents can also mosquito-proof their home by installing or repairing screens on windows and doors to keep mosquitoes out.
They can report standing water and mosquito breeding by calling (915) 212-6000 or dialing 311.