Heavy Rains Could Mean More West Nile Trouble

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With the unusual amount of wet weather we're having (with more expected this weekend), the threat of mosquitoes is bearing down on us. Last year, there were 183 statewide reports of West Nile virus in people. Harris County had a total of nine of those cases. Here in Houston, at least four people have died in the past two years of the virus.

But there's been no word of the virus popping up locally. "So far we have no mosquitoes or birds that have been found with the virus," said Martha Marquez of the HCPHES.

The mosquito control department does surveillance for the city of Houston and Harris County.

They have 264 traps that they put out. Mosquito control picks up those samples, which can include hundreds of mosquitoes, and separates out the species that carry West Nile. If one is found with the virus, the department sprays the area where it was found, Marquez said.

She said the county reported no fatal cases, but a total of 14 people died in Texas from West Nile last year, according to state numbers. In 2012, about 1,000 more people statewide caught the virus than in 2013, and according to the state's numbers, 89 people died.

Harris County reported 42 human cases in 2012 and 501 mosquito samples that tested positive. The county, which records its findings independent of the city of Houston (which reported 73 cases in 2012), reported no deaths, according to mosquito control data. In 2013 the total number of skeeters that tested positive was 147 and nine people were infected.

Yeah, that statistic's not too alarming. But as the state department of health services reported this month, the severity of the virus fluctuates from year to year, it all depends on "the numbers of birds and mosquitoes that maintain and spread the virus, and human behavior."

That's right, human behavior. It means being proactive with those long sleeves at dusk and using bug spray. It also means clearing out those dingy tires and handling your business with those stagnant pools of rainwater on your property (like dumping containers that've collected water.

Most people don't even know they're infected, but for many who do, it's usually because of a fever and achy bones. But don't be mistaken; you could also get a really high fever and encephalitis (you know, inflammation of your brain).

Last year, the county started finding mosquitoes with the virus near mid-June, and the year before that in May, according to the Harris County Public Health & Environmental Services Mosquito Control. The only activity so far this year appears to be in Dallas County.

The season for West Nile is a long one, and can last until the first hard freeze of the year, according to Mosquito Control. Sleeve up, spray up and clean up.

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