St. Louis Encephalitis Virus and West Nile Virus found in Lubbock mosquitoes

St. Louis Encephalitis Virus and West Nile Virus found in Lubbock mosquitoes

LUBBOCK, Texas (KCBD) - The City of Lubbock Health Department has confirmed St. Louis Encephalitis Virus (SLE) and West Nile Virus (WNV) from mosquito virus screening samples collected in Lubbock. This is the first report of either SLE or WNV in Lubbock for 2020.

“We can look at specific species of mosquitoes and then ones that are known to carry disease we send them over to the Texas Tech laboratory, and they’re able to test those mosquitoes to see whether or not they carry any virus,” said Katherine Wells with the City of Lubbock’s Health Department.

Each year, vector control conducts mosquito surveillance throughout the county. Samples are taken to the Vector-borne Zoonoses Laboratory at Texas Tech University for screening. The laboratory notified the health department that samples tested positive for SLE and WNV.

Both WNV and SLE are viral diseases spread to people by the bite of an infected mosquito. Humans are exposed to the virus when they are bitten by mosquitoes that have fed on infected birds. Neither virus can be spread person-to-person.

Most people infected with these viruses have no apparent illness. Initial symptoms of those who become ill include fever, headache, nausea, vomiting, and tiredness. Severe neuroinvasive disease (often involving encephalitis, an inflammation of the brain) occurs more commonly in older adults.

“They cause flu-like symptoms, which is something we’ve been talking about a lot but the main ones are really headache and a fever,” said Wells.

In rare cases, long-term disability or death can result. There are no vaccines to prevent nor medications to treat SLE or WNV. Care is based on symptoms. Patients with suspected infections should be evaluated by a healthcare provider, appropriate serologic and other diagnostic tests ordered, and supportive treatment provided.

It is important for individuals to continue to take steps to avoid mosquito bites. These include:

  • Wearing an EPA registered insect repellent
  • 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

For more information on St. Louis Encephalitis Virus visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website at: http://www.cdc.gov/sle/index.html

You can also find information on the City of Lubbock’s Vector Control website, click here.

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