Angelina Co. hoping to avoid West Nile virus with defense methods

LUFKIN, TX (KTRE) - An urge to take precautions has begun as the first case of West Nile has been confirmed in Texas this season. The virus claimed 89 lives last year, which was an all time high since the first outbreak of West Nile a little more than a decade ago.

Twenty plus East Texas counties reported to have human cases of the West Wile virus in 2012.

"We had over 1,800 cases in Texas last year. East Texas had well above normal cases," said Regional Medical Director for the Texas Department of State Health Services Paul McGaha.

Angelina County was among the list with the most cases.

"We were surprised that we had as many victims as we had last year. That's why I was asking about maybe a grant to try to do something on the eradication part of it," said Angelina County Emergency Management Coordinator Don Morris.

The Angelina County Emergency Management Coordinator wants to make sure the public stays educated about prevention efforts and mosquito control before summer.

"Heat is certainly associated with more West Nile. There's a couple reasons for that. One is mosquitoes can breed faster the warmer it is. The virus is able to be more efficient when it's hotter," said Texas A&M University Clinical Assistant Professor Gabe Hamer.

Infected mosquitoes are most active during the times of dusk and dawn, so doctors recommend staying indoors during those times of the day.

"I take precaution myself. I use mosquito repellent, and also try not to wear non-sleeve shirts, and try not to be out late in the evenings when mosquitoes are most prevalent," Morris said.

A larger number of cases of the virus are found in males who tend to be outdoors more than women and those over the age of 50.

"Most cases of West Nile are what we call asymptomatic. 80 percent are where people don't know they have it," McGaha said. "They don't feel bad or anything but they did get it in their bloodstream."

The intensity of West Nile fluctuates from year to year in East Texas depending on weather, animals that maintain and spread the virus, and taking the right precautions.

The Texas Department of State Health Services is urging Texans to take precautions to reduce ricks of coming in contact with the virus.

Using EPA approved repellent each time you go outside is recommended. Also, wearing long sleeves and pants when outside for extra protection. They also ask people to regularly drain standing water and place screens on doors and windows.

The prime time for mosquito season is July and August but it's never too early to take precautions to reduce the risk of contracting the virus that affected so many locally last year.

Copyright 2013 KTRE. All rights reserved.