AUSTIN (KXAN) - Health officials on Tuesday confirmed Travis County's first death in 2012 from West Nile disease and said they are investigating three other reported cases of the virus.
It was the first West Nile death in the area since 2003 when two people died.
"The patient had been ill over the past week, and then hospitalized, and then passed away (Monday,)" Dr. Huang said.
The person who died this year was not identified, but the Austin/Travis County Health and Human Services Department said the person, who was over 50, died from a more serious form of the illness known as West Nile Neuroinvasive disease.
"We are concerned that this is an active mosquito-breeding season and that mosquitos have tested positive for West Nile virus throughout the community," says Dr. Philip Huang, Medical Director for Austin/Travis County Health and Human Services Department.
The department offered the following tips to reduce the risk of contracting the disease:
- Stay indoors during dusk and dawn. That's the time when mosquitoes likely to carry the infection are most active.
- Wear pants and long sleeves when you are outside, especially in mosquito-infested areas.
- Apply insect repellent that contains DEET. Read and follow label instructions. Spray both exposed skin and clothing with repellent.
- Get rid of standing water in your yard and neighborhood. Old tires, flowerpots, clogged rain gutters leaky pipes and faucets, birdbaths and wading pools can be breeding sites for mosquitos.
The agency said that most people infected with West Nile Virus show no symptoms. About one in 150 people infected develop severe illness.
"80 percent of the people will not have any symptoms. Twenty percent will get a mild illness; something like fever, headache, body aches, swollen lymph nodes, or a rash," Dr. Huang said, "And then it's that one out of 150 that will get the severe neuroinvasive disease. That's an infection of the brain or the membrane around the brain."
The severe symptoms can include high fever, headache, neck stiffness, stupor, disorientation, coma, tremors, convulsions, muscle weakness, vision loss, numbness and paralysis.
"These symptoms may last several weeks, and neurological effects may be permanent," the agency said. "Symptoms can last for as short as a few days, though even healthy people have become sick for several weeks."
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