WILLIAMSON COUNTY, Texas (KXAN) - A 90-year-old Williamson County woman has died of West Nile virus, county health officials said Thursday.
It was the first death of the year from the virus, but a total of six cases have been reported in Williamson County this year. Two were confirmed in July and four more were confirmed in August. The woman's name was not released.
Two of the six reported cases remain under investigation to determine the scope of the illness, according to officials with Williamson County and Cities Health District.
Previously, only five cases of the virus had been reported in Williamson County since 2002.
Marcus Cooper, spokesman for the Williamson County Health District, says, "We had a lot of rain during June and that created conditions for a large mosquito population."
As for the symptoms, Cooper warns, "It's like the flu. If you get those aches and stiffness it should be a red warning flag because those are things more common to fall and winter."
The more serious forms of the West Nile Virus can result in the onset of meningitis and encephalitis, which are infections that have symptoms including headache, high fever, rash, muscle weakness, stiff neck, disorientation, convulsions, paralysis, and coma.
All age groups are vulnerable to West Nile. However, the elderly or people with weakened immune systems face the highest risk of developing a severe or even fatal illness from an infection.
Symptoms usually begin three to 15 days after being bitten. The risk of getting a West Nlle-related disease typically increases in late July and August as more mosquitoes begin to feed on people instead of birds.
- West Nile Virus statistics in Texas
- Effects of DEET insect repellant
- DEET "Chemical Watch" fact sheet
So far this year, 18 West Nile cases -- including one death -- have been confirmed in Travis County. Two have been reported in Bastrop County and four in Hays.
Dallas County and the city of Dallas have declared an emergency after the virus claimed 10 lives and caused at least 200 others to become sick so far this summer. The city of Dallas plans aerial spraying Thursday evening to kill mosquitos. The city has not used the tactic in 45 years.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that nearly half of all West Nile cases in the United States so far this year are in Texas, The Associated Press reported Thursday. If trends hold, 2012 will be the worst West Nile year in state history, the wire service added.
Officials say the best way to prevent West Nile is to avoid getting mosquito bites. Even if mosquito activity seems low, it only takes one bite from an infected mosquito to transmit the virus.
Health officials recommend these tips to avoid getting a bite:
- Use insect repellents when outdoors.
- Wear long sleeves and pants during dawn and dusk.
- Install or repair screens on windows and doors. Use air conditioning, if you have it.
- Empty standing water from items outside your home such as flowerpots, buckets, and kiddie pools.
The Do's and Don'ts of DEET -- Environmental Protection Agency
EPA requires that child safety claims be removed from all end-use product labels, as they are misleading and irreconcilable with the intended use and pesticidal ingredients of DEET products, and that all DEET labels inform users to take the following precautions:
- Do not allow young children to apply this product
- Do not apply near children's hands or face
- Apply only enough to cover exposed skin and/or clothing;
- Do not apply over cuts, wounds and irritated skin;
- Thoroughly wash all treated skin with soap and water after returning indoors;
- Wash treated clothes before wearing again
- Do not spray aerosol forms inside a residence or building, but to outside to apply.
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