Officials report first West Nile virus case in Lubbock County

First confirmed case of West Nile in Lubbock area

LUBBOCK, TX (KCBD) - The City of Lubbock Health Department says that one person has a confirmed case of West Nile, and mosquitoes in the area have also tested positive for the virus.

However, the investigation was unable to confirm if the person contracted WNV in Lubbock. The individual may have been infected while traveling in surrounding counties or another state. However, as a precaution, Vector Control has increased spraying and larvacide activities in targeted areas.

The city regularly traps mosquitoes across the county and takes them into a laboratory for testing.

Katherine Wells is Director of Public Health for the Lubbock Health Department.

She says, “We do human surveillance, so we actually talk to people about where they got bit and mosquito surveillance, where we have traps around the county. We collect the mosquitoes from those traps and they get sent to laboratory for testing. So, the mosquitoes that were trapped test positive for West Nile, then we know that we have West Nile disease in the community. So, we do know that we have mosquitoes out here that can infect individuals with West Nile.”

Wells says for the last three years, the first case of the season is showing up later in the mosquito season.

She says “It’s nice that we’re only finding it now in September. It will be getting cold soon and that will kill off the virus. There is less time for people to actually be exposed, but we do want to let people know that the virus is circulating in that mosquito population and that they need to take precautions.”

WNV is a disease of birds. Humans are exposed to the virus when they are bitten by mosquitoes that have fed on infected birds. The infected mosquitoes become the link (vector) that spreads the disease from birds to humans through a mosquito bite.

WNV cannot be spread person-to-person. Symptoms of West Nile fever include headache, fever, muscle and joint aches, nausea and fatigue. People with West Nile fever typically recover on their own. There is a more serious form of the illness,

West Nile encephalitis, which may have additional symptoms of neck stiffness, stupor, disorientation, coma, tremors, convulsions, muscle weakness and paralysis. Up to 80 percent of people infected with the virus will have no symptoms. There are no medications to treat or vaccines to prevent West Nile virus infection. People over 50 years old and those with other health issues are at a higher risk of becoming seriously ill.

If people have symptoms and suspect West Nile virus infection, they should contact their healthcare provider. While we are near the end of mosquito season it is important for individuals to continue to take steps to avoid mosquito bites. These include:

  • Wearing an EPA registered  insect repellant
  • Covering up with long-sleeved  shirts and long pants
  • Keeping mosquitoes out of  living areas by using air conditioning or intact window screens
  • Limiting outdoor activities  during peak mosquito times
  • Dumping standing water around  your home

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