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West Nile virus a concern following heavy rains

There are no confirmed cases of West Nile virus in Ector County but with recent rains, the Permian Basin is at greater risk for the disease.

National Weather Service officials said 9.33 inches of rain has fallen in Odessa this year. Combine that with high heat in between the rainy days and you have a mosquito breeding ground, medical officials said.

West Nile virus, is an arthropod-borne virus that can cause, in some serious cases, inflammation of the brain and inflammation of the lining of the brain and spinal cord, which can be fatal. The first reported case in North American was in 1999.

Although those are the more serious symptoms of the virus, experts at Medical Center Hospital said most people who get the virus experience little to no symptoms.

Pam Burton, infection preventionist at MCH, noted there are two forms of the virus, the most common being the non-serious condition and that neither have been detected at MCH.

The first human case of 2015 in Texas was reported in May in Harris County and some mosquitoes have tested positive for West Nile in the eastern portion of the state, according to the Texas Department of State Health Services.

There have been no confirmed cases in Ector County, Burton said, but city, county, and medical officials are working on prevention efforts to keep the virus from making its way here in the favorable conditions.

“The preventative efforts we look at are the 4 D’s,” Burton said. “They are deet, the chemical compound in repellents, drain, meaning drain standing water, dress appropriately to cover arms and legs, and dusk and dawn, the two most common times mosquitoes are out.”

Burton also recommended checking screens and windows to ensure that the insects cannot enter into the home.

Meanwhile officials with the City of Odessa are also taking preventative measures and are asking the public’s help in their efforts.

City spokeswoman Andrea Goodson said they have not heard an overwhelming amount of complaints about mosquitoes to prompt spraying areas to repel the insects but they have been watching the landscape closely.

In related news, West Nile virus detected in Richland Hills mosquito sample.

“Right now we are watching areas closely and putting larvicide in any standing water and in any public areas that can hold water,” Goodson said.

Larvicide is an insecticide that specifically targets the larva stage of an insect’s life cycle, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.

Although Goodson said they are taking preventative measures, they are also asking the community to help.

“We can spray down alleys and sidewalks and put down the larvicide but it won’t matter if people are not draining standing water in their backyards and have overgrown vegetation,” Goodson said. “It has to be a collaborative effort.”

Gino Solla, director of the Ector County Health Department, reported that in the county they are taking a similar approach to warning the public.

“We preach preventative measures until we are blue in the face and we have tried to educate the public on these things (the four D’s) for about ten years now,” Solla said.

Solla also noted that they stopped hiring contractors to spray for mosquitoes out in the county in the late 2000s because the process became too costly and they ECHD does not have the resources.

Solla also touched on the scare factor of West Nile not being quite what it was in the early 2000s when the disease first emerged.

“The reason was, like everything else, it was a new disease,” Solla said. “Today we have learned to live with it, accept it, and take preventative measures against it.”

Burton said symptoms related to West Nile virus include muscle aches, headaches, high fevers, delirium, confusion, tremors and stiffness in the neck area.

Burton also stressed that the less serious form of the illness is the most common and most of the time people do not know they have it and in most cases they are able to recover on their own.

She also noted that there is no cure for West Nile virus, and physicians treat the illness with intravenous fluids, and pain medication.

This article was written by Jared Wilson from Odessa American, Texas and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.

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