A mosquito bite seems harmless, but it can be deadly. Last year, Dallas County reported two deaths from mosquito-borne diseases. An outbreak in 2012 resulted in 20 deaths, more than 200 hospitalizations and nearly 1,000 illnesses across the metroplex.
This year, just one mosquito trap has tested positive for West Nile virus in Cedar Hill. However, West Nile virus is only one risk; other mosquito-borne illnesses include Eastern equine encephalitis, St. Louis encephalitis and Lyme disease.
“The media, in the last few years, has done due diligence in reporting mosquito-borne illnesses in North Texas, specifically West Nile virus,” Dr. Tom Jones, chief of staff at Doctors Hospital at White Rock Lake, said. “Yes, West Nile virus does exist in Dallas County and it’s more common than it used to be. However, mosquito-borne illnesses are not limited to West Nile. “
Following the outbreak in 2012, an aerial pesticide was sprayed across Dallas County. Dr. Jones said these efforts helped reduce the reports of mosquito-borne illnesses, but also raised alarm among patients.
“More patients [who think they are infected] just have anxiety, and not the disease,” Dr. Jones said. “But if they are infected, there is no cure or treatment for the illness.”
Mosquitos Are Dangerous Vectors
West Nile virus spreads when a mosquito bites an infected bird, and then carries the disease to humans and animals. Dr. Jones explained, “The mosquito is a vector. It carries the germs through its blood stream. The germ does not harm the mosquito, but it is carried to people and animals.”
America Reported 119 Deaths Last Year
Most people who are infected with mosquito-borne illnesses only experience flu-like symptoms including fever and achy muscles. However, extreme cases can lead to neurological disorders and death. Last year alone, West Nile virus caused 119 deaths in America.
Most People Don’t Experience Symptoms
Four of five people infected with West Vile virus do not experience any symptoms. The other 20 percent of infected people report flu-like symptoms including the following:
Rash surrounding the bite
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports, “Most people with this type of West Nile virus disease recover completely, but fatigue and weakness can last for weeks or months.”
Senior Citizens Run A Higher Risk
Mosquito-borne illnesses affect everyone, but senior citizens and people with compromised immune systems are at the greatest risk. People over 50 years old are more likely to develop neurological diseases such as encephalitis or meningitis, inflammation of the brain or surrounding tissues.
CDC reports, “People with certain medical conditions, such as cancer, diabetes, hypertension and kidney disease are also at greater risk for serious illness.”
Prevention Is The Only Cure
Dallas County Health and Human Services reinforce the four Ds of disease prevention:
Wear DEET (found in insect repellent)
Dress in long and loose clothing
Drain standing water
Stay inside at dusk and dawn
It’s also important to apply insect repellent correctly. An article on Huffington Post suggests putting on sunscreen before bug spray and applying repellent on all exposed skin.
“The most important thing is wearing insecticide,” Dr. Jones said. “You can’t treat these diseases. You need to prevent them. “