Texas and The West Nile Virus: Stay Alert

Here on the island, mosquitoes are a fact of life. Texas families need to stay vigilant because these insects aren’t just pesky—they’re carriers of several viruses, like West Nile virus (WNV) and malaria. Unfortunately, more and more cases of WNV are popping up around Texas and Florida this year, and when left untreated, West Nile virus can lead to fever, paralysis, and more.

In this blog, we will explore how you can keep yourself and your family safe this summer. Learn how to spot the virus, what preventative measures you should take to avoid it, and when you should seek immediate medical attention if you, your kids, or your pets become infected.

What is West Nile Virus?

The West Nile virus is a viral infection transmitted by mosquitoes that mainly affects birds, but it can also be transmitted to humans and animals. That’s right, even your pets require your protection from WNV, especially deep into the summer months.

Luckily, the more you and your family understand the signs of the virus and how to prevent swarms of mosquitoes from forming around your home, the better chance you have to defend yourselves against the leading cause of mosquito-borne diseases in the United States.

Symptoms of West Nile Virus

In most cases, if you or your kids contract the West Nile virus, you may not experience any symptoms, or you will only demonstrate mild, flu-like symptoms. If anyone in your family develops symptoms—whether they are mild or severe—they will more than likely recover completely.

Mild symptoms of West Nile virus can include:

  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Body aches
  • Fatigue
  • Joint pains
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Swollen lymph nodes
  • Rash

West Nile Virus symptoms usually become noticeable within 2-14 days after being bitten by an infected mosquito.

In rare instances, the West Nile virus can cause more severe complications for people and pets. 

Severe symptoms and complications of West Nile Virus include:

  • Neurological diseases like encephalitis (inflammation of the brain) 
  • Meningitis (inflammation of the lining of the brain and spinal cord)
  • High fever
  • Stiff neck
  • Disorientation or confusion
  • Muscle weakness
  • Tremors (muscle jerking)
  • Convulsions/seizures
  • Paralysis
  • Coma
  • Depression
  • Incoordination

How to Prevent West Nile Virus

You can protect your family, including your pets, from the West Nile virus through these preventative measures:

  • Reduce exposure to mosquitoes
  • Wear long-sleeved clothing and pants
  • Eliminate potential mosquito breeding sites around homes and communities
  • Use insect repellent (only use pet-safe insect repellent on your pets)

When used as directed, EPA-registered insect repellents are proven safe and effective, even for pregnant and breastfeeding women. Find the right insect repellent for you by using EPA’s search tool.

Older family members and family members with weaker immune systems should be extra diligent to protect themselves from mosquito bites because severe cases of WVN are more commonly developed among elderly and immunocompromised people.

If at all possible, get rid of any sources of standing water inside or outside your home. Empty and clean bird baths, gutters, and flower pots to prevent mosquitoes from breeding around your home. You can also use protective screens on windows and doors to keep mosquitoes out of your home.

If you, your family, or your pets experience any symptoms associated with WNV, especially severe symptoms, seek medical attention from a hospital or veterinarian as soon as possible. Early diagnosis and supportive care will help you, your family, and your pets manage the symptoms of the West Nile virus and ensure a speedy recovery.

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