May 21, 2015 10:09 PM EDT
The Texas Department of State Health Services has reported the state's first case of West Nile virus and is now reminding people how to protect themselves from the virus caused by mosquitoes.
The patient was diagnosed in Harris County, Texas and has contracted the more serious version of the illness known as West Nile neuroinvasive disease. The DSHS has not released any personal details in order to protect the patient's identity.
The milder form of the illness, known as West Nile fever, causes symptoms such as headache, fever, muscle and joint aches, nausea and fatigue. People who contract West Nile fever typically recover on their own, although the symptoms may last for weeks or even months.
Symptoms of the West Nile neuroinvasive disease, the more serious form, can include all those of the West Nile fever plus neck stiffness, stupor, disorientation, coma, tremors, convulsions, muscle weakness, paralysis and even death.
Currently there are no medications to treat West Nile and there are no vaccinations to prevent the disease caused by mosquitoes. People over the age of 50 or have other health issues are at a greater risk of becoming seriously ill or even dying when they become infected with the virus. Anyone who believes they may have West Nile virus, should contact their health care professionals immediately.
"Up to 80 percent of people who contract the virus don't get symptoms and won't even know they have it," said Dr. Tom Sidwa, state public health veterinarian and manager of DSHS's zoonosis control branch. "But those who do get sick can experience very serious effects ranging from fever to substantial neurological symptoms and even death."
To reduce the chances of becoming infected with West Nile virus, people should do the following:
Last year, there were 379 human cases of West Nile illness in Texas alone, including six deaths.
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