AUSTIN (KXAN) — Local health officials say two people tested positive for West Nile virus in Austin. They tell us two out of the 30 mosquito pools in Austin tested positive too — both in the Barton Creek Greenbelt.
It’s Dylan Lyvit’s birthday Wednesday and he’s spending it walking the greenbelt with his girlfriend.
“I’m a little nervous. I remember there’s always been a couple scares every other summer it feels like,” said Lyvit.
They are some of the tens of thousands of people who use Austin greenbelts over the summer. They are popular places to run, bike and swim.
Austin’s Public Health Department has been tackling the issue. After the positive tests, they will increase their testing sites from 30 to 50, as well as increase treatments to kill mosquito larvae.
“We do this all the time. This is public health at work. When we’re doing our job people don’t know about it,” said Dr. Phil Huang from the Austin Health Department.
He says they’re not going to put any signs or notifications in the greenbelt because they don’t want to create the false impression that the problem is just here. Mosquitos get the disease from birds, and birds and mosquitos are everywhere in the city of Austin.
Eighty percent of people who get West Nile will show no symptoms, but one of the Austin cases is severe. Dr. Huang says that one percent of cases can get serious.
“It’s an inflammation of the brain and tissues surrounding the brain. You can get coma, paralysis, even death,” said Dr. Huang.
The only real way to protect yourself is to avoid getting bit, something you’ll have to remember throughout the summer.
The Austin-Travis County area hasn’t seen a steady increase in human West Nile cases. According to Dr. Huang, there were no reported human cases last year.
But there were 3 in 2016. The most cases reported in the Austin-Travis County area in the last 8 years was in 2012 with 153 cases. Six of those were deaths.
Health officials say people need a reminder to prevent mosquitos from biting. Drain pools of water that can gather in things like kids toys and flower pots. Fix leaky pipes and clean rain gutters. Try and keep yards kept up so the bugs can’t hide in tall grass. Use bug spray and wear long shirts and pants.