Dec 17, 2018 | Updated: 09:51 PM EST

Texas Reports First Case of West Nile Virus

May 21, 2015 10:09 PM EDT

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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:

  • Always use an approved insect repellent every time they go outside and follow the instructions carefully on how to use the repellent. 
  • When using repellent, only use those that contain DEET, picaridin, IR3535 and oil of lemon eucalyptus/para-menthane-diol.
  • Regularly drain any standing water, including water collecting in empty cans, tires, buckets, clogged rain gutters and saucers under potted plants.  Mosquitoes that spread the disease breed in stagnate water.
  • Always wear long sleeves and pants when going outside at dawn or dusk when mosquitoes are most active.
  • Use air conditioning inside or make sure there are screens on all doors and windows to keep mosquitoes out of the home.

Last year, there were 379 human cases of West Nile illness in Texas alone, including six deaths.

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