AUSTIN, Texas - A Travis County resident has died of an illness caused by West Nile Virus, and Austin Public Health (APH) is urging people to take precautions against mosquitoes.
This is the first confirmed West Nile virus case in Travis County for 2023.
"We are sad to report the first death of the year from West Nile virus in Travis County," said APH Health Authority Dr. Desmar Walkes. "This death is a stark reminder that West Nile virus poses a serious risk, especially to older people and those with weakened immune systems."
Walkes says Central Texas has seen an uptick in mosquito breeding because of the recent rains and cooler temperatures.
To date, the Environmental Health Services Division has identified 26 positive pools of mosquitoes carrying West Nile virus this year in 12 zip codes, including 78702, 78703, 78704, 78721, 78722, 78723, 78727, 78741, 78751, 78754, 78757 and 78759.
Symptoms of West Nile virus
West Nile virus is commonly spread through mosquito bites and is not spread through coughing, sneezing or touching infected people or animals.
APH says approximately one in five people infected with West Nile virus develop symptoms such as:
- Body aches
- Joint pains
Of those infected, few can develop serious illness affecting the central nervous system. People over 60 years of age, persons with medical conditions such as cancer, diabetes, hypertension or kidney disease, and immunocompromised individuals, such as organ transplant recipients are at greater risk of developing serious disease.
How to prevent West Nile virus
Mosquitoes are present in Central Texas year-round, but the population is largest and most active from May through November. Although mosquitoes were quiet this summer due to dry conditions, recent rains have brought them back to life, increasing the risk of contracting mosquito-borne infections for people across the state.
APH says you should know the dangers and ‘fight the bite’ with the "four Ds":
- Drain standing water: Mosquitoes breed in standing water and need as little as one teaspoon of water. Emptying water that accumulates in toys, tires, trash cans, buckets, clogged rain gutters and plant pots will eliminate places for mosquitoes to lay eggs and reproduce.
- Dusk to dawn: Although different species of mosquitoes are active at different times of day, the Culex mosquito that spreads West Nile virus is most active between dusk and dawn.
- Dress: Wear pants and long sleeves when you are outside. Wear light-colored, loose-fitting clothing; mosquito-repellent clothing is also available.
- DEET: Apply insect repellant: Use an EPA-registered repellent such as those containing DEET, picaridin, IR3535, oil of lemon eucalyptus, para-menthane-diol or 2-undecanone. Apply on both exposed skin and clothing.
For more information on West Nile virus, visit www.AustinTexas.gov/WestNile.
For additional information about APH Environmental Vector Control and mosquito monitoring programs, visit https://austintexas.gov/department/environmental-vector-control.