Health & Science

First 2018 West Nile Virus Related Death in Harris County

The patient was a middle-aged man from Southwest Harris County who had underlying chronic health conditions

Harris County Public Health has confirmed the first death related to West Nile Virus of 2018.

Harris County Public Health (HCPH) has confirmed a West Nile Virus (WNV) related death in Harris County. It is the first WNV-related death in the county for 2018. The patient, whose identity remains confidential, was a 45-54 year-old male from Southwest Harris County and had underlying chronic health conditions.

West Nile season typically runs from June through October. As of September 20, 303 mosquito samples have tested positive for the virus. The areas where those samples have been detected have been sprayed to reduce the risk of disease.

So far this year, a total of six human cases of WNV have been confirmed (including this WNV related death) in Harris County and the city of Houston.

Most people who are infected with West Nile will not develop any symptoms.

However, about 1 in 5 people who are infected develop a fever with other symptoms such as headache, body aches, joint pains, vomiting, diarrhea or rash.

More severe signs and symptoms can include high fever, stiff neck, stupor, disorientation, tremors, convulsions, muscle weakness, vision loss, encephalitis (inflammation of the brain) or meningitis (inflammation of the membranes that surround the brain and spinal cord).

Severe illness can occur in people of any age; however, people over 60 years of age are at greater risk.

People with certain medical conditions, such as cancer, diabetes, hypertension, kidney disease, and people who have received organ transplants, are also at greater risk. About 1 out of 10 people who develop severe illness affecting the central nervous system die.

To protect yourself and your family from mosquito bites, HCPH recommends the following:

  • Use an EPA-registered insect repellent containing the active ingredient DEET, Picaridin, oil of lemon eucalyptus, IR3535, Paramenthanediol, 2-undecanone. Always follow the product label instructions.
  • If possible, wear long-sleeved shirts, long pants and socks.
  • Remove/empty containers that can hold water such as tires, flowerpots and toys.
  • Change water in birdbaths and pet water bowls every 3 to 5 days.
  • Keep rain gutters free of debris.
  • Make sure screens are in good condition.

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