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Health & Science

West Nile Virus Back in Mosquito Population in Harris County

Harris County reports a mosquito has tested positive for the West Nile virus, the first local appearance of the virus in 2014.

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Harris County reports a mosquito has tested positive for the West Nile virus, the first local appearance of the virus in 2014.  The virus has been found in the region every summer since 2002.

The mosquito-borne virus causes a fever and in rare cases can lead to brain inflammation and death. Most people who get infected have no symptoms and may not even know they are infected.

“West Nile virus was detected last year at almost the same time in June. So this is nothing out of the ordinary,” said Sandy Kachur, a spokeswoman for the county’s Department of Public Health and Environmental Services.

The mosquito that tested positive for the virus was found in northeast Houston between the Loop and the Beltway.

Two years ago was a record-breaking year for West Vile virus activity across the country. In Texas alone, 87 people died from the disease in 2012.

But the 2013 season was quieter.

“Last year was kind of a low season for us,” Kachur said. “We had only 147 samples of West Nile virus in mosquitoes, compared to other years where we may have had 5-600.” There were 14 human deaths in 2013 across Texas, none in Harris County.   

It’s unclear yet how far the virus will spread this season. But Kachur says residents can help deter the transmission of the virus by removing sources of standing water.

“It’s important that people just go out onto their property, survey it for anything that can hold standing water, empty that water,” she said. “And when you’re looking out, also remember to look up in to your gutters. Because oftentimes the leaves fall in the gutters, and that just becomes a perfect breeding ground for mosquitoes.”

Kachur also asked residents to properly dispose of grass clippings and tree waste, and not sweep them into sewers or ditches. 

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