By Kyle Peveto, Page Editor
Test results confirmed the first presence of West Nile virus this year in Abilene-area mosquitoes Wednesday.
The Abilene-Taylor County Public Health District submitted the mosquitoes for testing to the Texas Department of Health Bureau of Laboratories Sept. 2.
A horse tested positive for West Nile earlier this year, but no mosquitoes tested positive until Sept. 10.
“It’s not going to go away,” said Kay Durilla, nursing supervisor for Abilene-Tayor County public health district. “It’s always going to be an at-risk situation throughout the months when we have mosquitoes breeding.”
West Nile will be a factor until the first hard freeze of the winter kills the mosquitoes, she added.
A Taylor County resident died Aug. 15 from West Nile. Levon Humphrey, of Merkel, was 8-years-old and had diabetes and high blood pressure, making him part of the largest at-risk group.
Young adults and those without immune system diseases or weaknesses are not as at-risk but can still contract the disease and feel its flu-like symptoms.
The disease can take two days to two weeks to incubate, Durilla said, and the symptoms can also last two days to two weeks. Because West Nile is a virus, only the symptoms can be treated. After becoming sick, one must wait until the body flushes it out.
Symptoms include: headache, fever, rashes and flu-like aches and pains. The disease has varying degrees, and at its worst, it affects the brain and causes memory loss and ataxia.
Durilla and the heath district recommend you stay indoors at dawn and dusk when mosquitoes are at their worst, wear long sleeves and pants, wear insect repellent containing DEET and drain areas that may contain standing water and assist in the mosquito breeding grounds. Standing water in pets’ water dishes or in potted plants should be changed every two-to-three days.
“You break the life cycle of the mosquito; you don’t give the larvae time enough to hatch and become an adult mosquito,” Durilla said.
Some types of mosquitoes will enter houses and breed in places that hold water like potted plants and can live well after the first freeze occurs.
Durilla suggests residents change their potted plant water in the house as well as outside every few days to prevent this.
West Nile was first documented around the Nile River in the 1930s and ’40s, Durilla said. It first appeared in the United States in New York in 1999 and has made its way west.