DALLAS, July 19 (UPI) -- The warmer than average winter has resulted in earlier West Nile virus in North Texas, where health officials have declared an epidemic.
Dallas County health officials reported Monday a man in his 60s who lived north of downtown Dallas died of West Nile virus. I might be the first U.S. death this year from West Nile, the Dallas Star-Telegram reported.
As of Monday Dallas County officials reported 16 human cases of West Nile in Dallas County, two from West Nile fever and 14 neuro-invasive.
"This fits the definition of an epidemic," Sandra Parker, Tarrant County public health medical director, told the Star-Telegram. "We need to do what we can to prevent the illness."
Health officials at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta estimated about 20 percent of people infected with West Nile virus will develop West Nile fever, with symptoms including fever, headache, tiredness and body aches, occasionally with a skin rash and swollen lymph glands.
The symptoms of severe disease -- also called neuro-invasive disease, such as West Nile encephalitis or meningitis or West Nile poliomyelitis -- include high fever, headache, neck stiffness, stupor, disorientation, coma, tremors, convulsions, muscle weakness, vision loss, numbness and paralysis. Serious illness can occur at any age, but those age 50 and older, and some immunocompromised persons, are at the highest risk.
The main way to prevent West Nile is to remove the breeding ground of the Culex species of mosquito. Residents are urged to inspect their property and yards and remove any standing water from gutters, overturned garbage can lids, toys, buckets or gardening equipment, health officials said.
Resident are also advised to use a good mosquito repellent and avoid being outdoors at dawn and dusk, when the mosquitoes are most prevalent.