Despite recent rains and peak mosquito months, cases of West Nile in Bell County are low, officials said.
Lacey Sanders, an epidemiologist with Bell County Public Health, said one positive human case of West Nile has been reported in the county this year, although the individual could have been bitten by a mosquito in another region.
No positive cases of West Nile have been reported in mosquitoes in Bell County yet this year, she said.
“With West Nile, the disease typically occurs in 10-year cycles. So it peaks, then stays dormant,” Sanders said.
No human cases of West Nile have been confirmed in Texas to date this year, which would include Coryell and Lampasas counties, said Christine Mann, a spokeswoman with the Texas Department of State Health Services.
Sanders said the case in Bell County involves an individual who tested positive for West Nile last year, which is why it’s unconfirmed by the state.
According to the Texas Department of State Health Services, 183 confirmed cases of West Nile illness, including 14 deaths, were reported in Texas in 2013.
Of the 2013 cases, none were in Bell County or surrounding counties.
In 2012, Bell County had two human deaths, seven West Nile neuroinvasive disease and three West Nile fever cases. Coryell County had one case of West Nile disease that year, and Lampasas County had none.
Texas had a total of 89 West Nile related deaths, 844 West Nile disease cases and 1,024 cases of West Nile fever in 2012.
West Nile virus is commonly spread by mosquitoes feeding on infected birds and then biting a human, with infections common from June to September, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. The incubation period is usually from two to six days but can last up to 14 days.
Symptoms of West Nile neuroinvasive disease include headache, high fever, neck stiffness, stupor, disorientation, coma, tremors, convulsions, muscle weakness and paralysis. West Nile fever symptoms include fever, headache, body aches, and occasionally a skin rash or swollen lymph glands, according to the health department. Belton resident Chuck Johnson said mosquitoes are such a problem in his area that he’s having to spray every two weeks.
“It’s bad to go outside because they’ll bite you almost immediately,” Johnson said. “I think it’s the recent rain bringing thick vegetation and dampness that draws them out.”
Health officials recommend people wear long sleeves from dawn to dusk when mosquitoes are active, use repellent that contains DEET, picaridin or oil of lemon eucalyptus, and to drain standing water where mosquitoes can breed.
Killeen spokeswoman Hilary Shine said the city does not have widespread mosquito spraying equipment but does place tablets in areas of stagnant water.
“There is an ordinance addressing stagnant water through property maintenance to prevent the accumulation of vermin,” Shine said.
According to the city’s nuisance ordinance, it is unlawful to allow holes, containers or other receptacles to accumulate stagnant water. If a violation is made, the property owner will be notified in writing and the city may also issue a Class C misdemeanor citation punishable with a fine up to $2,000 for a first violation.