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Breaking Down West Nile Virus Risk

Updated: Saturday, August 3 2013, 09:47 PM CDT

Texas is setting a new record, but not the kind of record the Lone Star State would like to be setting. So far, 2012 has been the worst year ever for West Nile Virus.

Texas continues setting records for its worst year ever for West Nile Virus, with the death of a 77-year-old El Paso man bringing the total up to 44, nearly half of the nation’s West Nile Virus deaths. The Centers For Disease Control says nationwide, cases are up 25% over the last week and expected to rise even further over the next several weeks. But how likely are you to actually get the virus?

When it comes to actually getting West Nile Virus, experts say your chances are low. Even in parts of town where the virus is going around, the state says very few of the mosquitoes are infected with the virus.

What if a mosquito bites you that does carry the virus? Doctors say your odds of becoming severely ill are extremely low: about 1 in 150. Still, more than 500 people in Texas have come down with the severe form of the virus. Big signs to watch out for: severe headaches, confusion, inability to stand or walk, muscle weakness, neck stiffness. Doctors say to see them if you experience those symptoms, which could last several weeks and cause permanent neurological damage. Death is rare, but as we’ve seen, it can happen. If you’re over 50, you have the highest risk of infection. If your immune system is weakened, your odds go up too.

 The CDC says about 80 percent of people infected show no symptoms at all, and the other nearly 20 percent come down with the milder version, which includes symptoms like fever, headache, body aches, and swollen lymph nodes. Most of these symptoms last a few days, though people in good health have been known to be sick for several weeks. There’s no specific treatment and no vaccine, but doctors say for the milder form, the illness usually passes on its own.

For more information:

Austin-Travis County Health and Human Services:

Texas Department of State Health Services:


By Adam BennettBreaking Down West Nile Virus Risk

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