A pool of mosquitoes has tested positive for St. Louis encephalitis virus, as known as SLEV, the City of El Paso Department of Health announced in a news release Wednesday.
The virus can spread to people through mosquito bites but has not been detected in a human in El Paso since 1982. A pool of mosquitoes tested positive for the same virus last year, the release said.
SLEV has no apparent illness, but the initial symptoms include fever, headache, nausea, vomiting and fatigue. Older adults may experience a severe neuroinvasive disease and rare cases include long-term disability or death, the release said.
“This disease is very similar to West Nile virus which we are all too familiar with in the border region,” said Fernando Gonzalez, Lead Epidemiologist, in the release. “We need our community to be informed about the disease and for the medical community to begin testing for this disease, if indicated, so that we can determine if it is being spread locally.”
The city said there are no vaccines or medications for SLEV, but patients can be treated based on symptoms. As always, health officials recommend the following steps to prevent mosquito bites and illnesses that come with them.
- DEET – Use insect repellents that contain DEET when outdoors.
- DRESS – Wear long sleeves, long pants, and socks when outdoors.
- DUSK and DAWN – Although mosquitoes associated with other diseases such as Zika 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 – Drain standing water from flowerpots, gutters, buckets, pool covers, pet water dishes, and birdbaths.