Houston Health Department urges precaution against West Nile virus

Standing water from recent thunderstorms possible breeding ground for the virus

The Houston Health Department urges people to take precautions against West Nile Virus as standing water from recent thunderstorms creates potential breeding grounds for mosquitos.

Historically, from mid-July through early October the department will receive reports of human West Nile virus infections. This year, Houston has seen one reported infection and no deaths.

If infected with the virus most people experience mild illness characterized by flu-like symptoms including fever, headache, body aches, and occasionally a skin rash and swollen lymph glands. West Nile virus infection in severe cases can develop into encephalitis, inflammation of the brain, or meningitis, inflammation of the membrane surrounding the brain.

Severe infections can cause high fever, headache, stiff neck, disorientation, coma, tremors, muscle weakness, and paralysis. Symptoms usually develop three to 15 days after infection with the virus.

Although the elderly and those with weakened immune systems are at the highest risk of severe illness, the virus poses a risk to all residents.

Residents are strongly recommended to take precautions to prevent mosquito bites:

  • Wear long pants and long-sleeved shirts, especially from dusk to dawn.
  • Use insect repellent that contains DEET. Children require insect repellents that contain less than 10 percent DEET. Do not apply DEET on babies. Adults need insect repellents that have more than 10 percent DEET.

Keep the storm sewers clean to reduce mosquito breeding:

  • Sweep up lawn clippings, leaves and limbs from sidewalks, driveways, curbs and gutters.
  • Don’t let lawn water or car washing water enter the street.
  • Pick up litter and other debris from your yard and the street.

Keep the mosquitoes out of your house:

  • Keep doors and windows closed.
  • Seal cracks and gaps in the house.
  • If mosquitoes are in the house, use flying insect spray, following label instructions.

Other actions to prevent mosquito breeding:

  • Empty, remove, or dispose of anything in the yard that can hold water: flowerpot saucers, cans, toys, litter, rain barrels, plastic sheeting, etc.
  • Pet water bowls and birdbaths should be emptied and refilled at least twice a week.
  • Keep the rain gutters on your house clean and properly draining.
  • Repair household water leaks, and move air conditioner drain hose frequently.
  • Report water and sewer main leaks and breaks to 311.

Anyone with West Nile symptoms should speak to a physician and get tested.

Visit the department’s dedicated website for more information and prevention tips about West Nile virus.