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West Nile Season Begins; Officials Urge Caution

The first human West Nile case of the season in Texas was discovered this week, and new mosquito-borne diseases may threaten the state.
MIDLAND, TX (Local Big 2 News) - Texas sees its first West Nile virus case of the season. Officials in West Texas now urge everyone to take precautions against the mosquito-borne illness. West Nile Virus remains the focus of mosquito control districts in Texas.  

"West Nile season is coming, so everybody wear your repellent, remember your four D's," says Midland State Department of Health Services Zoonosis Control expert Kathy Parker.

The four D's include:

1. Drain standing water on your property.
2. Use insect repellent with deet.
3. Stay indoors at dusk and dawn if possible.
4. Dress in long sleeves if you must be outside during those hours.

"Get ready because the end of July we'll start seeing bird cases, human, horse cases," says Parker.

Just how many cases we'll see this year remains a mystery even for mosquito control experts.

"Nature is dynamic, we have no clue. It could be one case, it could be five hundred cases," she explains.

However, recent rainfall will increase the mosquito population.

"We've had plenty of rain, I'm sure everybody's seen mosquitoes already, I'll be trapping and doing surveillance," Parker notes.

In addition to West Nile, mosquito borne illnesses previously found only in other parts of the world now threaten the southern U.S.  Dengue Fever is now found in the U.S. and Chikungunya, a disease traditionally found in Africa, has now made its way to the Caribbean. These diseases could make their way into parts of Texas.

"We are very closely watching and monitoring, that's part of why the reason we do mosquito surveillance is to make sure that we catch the disease before the first time I find out about it is a human," says Parker.

With that said, Parker explains mosquito species in West Texas are less likely to carry those other diseases.

"There's lots of them out there, but everything we need to worry about in this area, is going to be West Nile right now, nothing else is near our doorstep in the Permian Basin."
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