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TTUHSC doctor says it’s time to start taking precautions against West Nile

Updated: Jun. 18, 2021 at 12:29 PM CDT
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LUBBOCK, Texas (KCBD) - During the Pandemic, people didn’t go to the doctor as much. Most were more likely to treat themselves at home.

Dr. Ron Warner, DVM, Ph.D., an infectious disease specialist at the Texas Tech Health Sciences Center, says that could be why we didn’t hear much about the flu… or West Nile Virus, for that matter. He says even though flu season isn’t here yet this year, mosquitos are launching after record rainfall in May. And Mosquitos are the reason for West Nile.

Dr. Warner said, “I would not be surprised that we do have cases of West Nile. It’s out there. The viruses in the birds. And if the mosquitoes amplify it, well, it will spill over because they will change from feeding on birds to feeding on mammals and it will spill over into unvaccinated horses and people.”

Not to mention dogs.

Dr. Warner is also a Veterinarian and he warns that mosquitos are to blame for a condition that can be fatal in dogs. “Heartworm can really significantly impact cardiac function and dogs. And if people notice the dog coughing, the dog being listless, not having an appetite. They should certainly take the dog to their veterinarian,” he says.

Lucky for dogs, there is Heartworm prevention.

There is no pill for people to take to ward off West Nile. But there is prevention, and Dr. Warner says now is the time to make the effort as mosquitos are producing their first crop.

He says remember the 4 Ds:

  • Use a bug repellant with Deet.
  • Dress appropriately outdoors.
  • Drain all standing water, even small water bowls for pets or bird baths.

He says, “If you can keep the water emptied out every couple of days, from those containers, then the mosquitoes will not have a place to develop.)”

The 4th D is a reminder to avoid activities at dusk and dawn when mosquitos are most active.

After an emotional year of concern over COVID, Dr. Warner says it’s time to remember that a little sting from this bug can also be life changing if that mosquito happens to carry West Nile disease. He describes a worst case scenario, “If they get the serious West Nile neuro invasive disease… unable to walk like they once walked or to use their arm like they once did or to think clearly. And so yes, West Nile can be a very serious disease.”

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