West Nile Virus
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West Nile Found Across Austin
Updated: Saturday, August 3 2013, 09:47 PM CDT
As of Thursday, West Nile Virus has now been found in mosquitoes in 28 ZIP codes in Travis County. Since May, nearly one in four of the county’s mosquito pools have tested positive, the highest number since surveillance activity started nearly a decade ago.
“There are more cases this year because we’ve seen more neuro-invasive disease,” said Dr. Pat Crocker of Dell Children’s Medical Center.
Though Dr. Crocker said when it comes to the number of West Nile cases, we may just be scratching the surface. He says retroactive nationwide testing of blood by the Centers for Disease Control is finding more and more people than previously thought have had the disease.
"If you look back just two or three years ago, the estimate was maybe 10,000-20,000 cases. Well, last week or the week before we saw they changed that to probably 450,000 to up to 950,000 cases over the last ten years.”
Dr. Crocker says that’s because most people don’t get very sick.
So what’s the Austin-Travis County Health and Human Services Department doing? A spokesperson told us they’re running tests daily, spraying in unincorporated parts of the county, and putting larvacide in breeding grounds, a strategy they say has proven effective in the past. As for spraying within city limits, when pressed about how bad the situation would need to get for spraying to start and whether plans were in the works, a spokesperson would only say it’s an option and always under consideration.
Dr. Crocker, meanwhile, offered the biggest warning signs to watch for with the disease.
"When you see a patient, particularly a small child, who has altered behavior, is maybe somnolent or lethargic, has a seizure, those are patients we definitely need to see."
And he offered one piece of advice for all parents.
“Tell your children if they find dead birds not to pick them up or handle them,” said Dr. Crocker. “Dead birds can be a sign of a bird that died from West Nile."
Despite the similarity in symptoms, he says flu shots don’t work against West Nile, also adding that a vaccine is in the works, but more than likely at least a couple of years away.
For tips on how to avoid the virus, go to http://www.weareaustin.com/news/top-stories/stories/vid_3334.shtml?wap=0&.
By Adam Bennett.