More than half of the confirmed West Nile virus cases in the country this year have been in Texas – over 1,000 Texans have contracted the disease. And local authorities have surprising figures about how prevalent the virus is in the Austin area.
The outbreak was so severe in the Dallas area that officials decided to spray insecticide from airplanes to kill mosquitoes carrying the disease. Officials with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say the plan worked and that the worst may be over the area. But the same is not true in Central Texas.
“If you look at Texas as a whole, the percentage of infected mosquitoes has gone down in the North Texas area but is staying up in the Central Texas area. We’re still seeing about 28 percent of the mosquitoes that we test, as of earlier this week in Travis County, about 28 percent are still positive for the virus," Texas Department of State Health Services Commissioner Dr. David Lakey says.
In Dallas County, only six percent of mosquitoes are now testing positive for West Nile.
As KUT News previously reported, while there is only one form of West Nile virus, there’s two forms of illness. One is West Nile fever, a passing, flu-like illness. (The majority of West Nile cases have been just those.)
But those with compromised immune systems may be susceptible to a stronger form of the illness – West Nile neuroinvasive disease, which can be deadly.
Carole Barasch is the communications director for Austin-Travis County Health and Human Services. She says the county can expect to see additional West Nile virus cases this month.
“There are mosquitoes carrying disease throughout Austin-Travis County," Barasch says. "This is very pervasive and there’s not one particular spot that’s being hit harder than another. It’s out there, it’s everywhere, it’s here to stay in our community.”
You can read tips on how to protect yourself from mosquitoes here.