First West Nile Virus death in Harris County

HOUSTON – Harris County Public Health (HCPH) has confirmed a West Nile virus (WNV) related death in Harris County, making it the first WNV-associated death in the county and in the state of Texas for 2018. The patient, whose identity will remain confidential, had underlying chronic health conditions, and is a 45-54 year-old male from Southwest Harris County.

“We are devastated to report the first West Nile virus-associated death, and our hearts go out to the family. Mosquitoes can spread a variety of diseases and those who are most vulnerable; children, aging and immunosuppressed individuals, are at a higher risk of dying of mosquito-borne diseases,” stated Umair A. Shah, MD, MPH, executive director of HCPH. “We conduct mosquito surveillance year-round and actively work on protecting our residents from diseases transmitted by mosquitoes, but we simply cannot do it alone. Continuously, we ask our residents to partner with us by reducing mosquito-breeding sites and protect themselves from getting bitten by mosquitoes.”

West Nile season typically runs from June through October. As of today, 303 mosquito samples have tested positive for the virus. The areas where those samples have been detected have been sprayed to reduce the risk of disease. So far this year, a total of six human cases of WNV have been confirmed (including this WNV associated death) in Harris County and the City of Houston.

Most people who are infected with West Nile will not develop any symptoms. However, about 1-in-5 people who are infected develop a fever with other symptoms such as headache, body aches, joint pains, vomiting, diarrhea or rash. More severe signs and symptoms can include: high fever, stiff neck, stupor, disorientation, tremors, convulsions, muscle weakness, vision loss, encephalitis (inflammation of the brain) or meningitis (inflammation of the membranes that surround the brain and spinal cord). Severe illness can occur in people of any age; however, people over 60 years of age are at greater risk. People with certain medical conditions, such as cancer, diabetes, hypertension, kidney disease, and people who have received organ transplants, are also at greater risk. About 1 out of 10 people who develop severe illness affecting the central nervous system die. If you have symptoms similar to West Nile virus, please contact your health provider immediately.

HCPH reminds the community to continue to enjoy the outdoors but remember to protect yourself and your family from mosquito bites.

  • Use an EPA-registered insect repellent containing the active ingredient DEET, Picaridin, oil of lemon eucalyptus, IR3535, Paramenthanediol, 2-undecanone. Always follow the product label instructions.
  • If possible, wear long-sleeved shirts, long pants and socks.
  • Remove/empty containers that can hold water such as tires, flowerpots and toys.
  • Change water in birdbaths and pet water bowls every 3 to 5 days.
  • Keep rain gutters free of debris.
  • Make sure screens are in good condition.

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