Mosquito season is well upon the Houston area, and recent heavy rains likely won’t help.
Friendswood and League City were scheduled to be sprayed by truck last Friday by the county. In addition, the city supplements county mosquito control by spraying at all city facilities, parks and public rights of way in the Harris County portion of Friendswood. Harris County focuses its spraying chiefly on areas impacted by West Nile Virus.
Meanwhile, Harris County Public Health & Environmental Services this month confirmed the first human case of the 2015 season of West Nile – the first reported case in the state this year.
Galveston County Mosquito Control has been operating from its base office in Dickinson since 1955. Today, it has 13 full-time employees, 17 spray trucks, two aircraft and an annual budget of more than $1 million.
But the reason for county spraying, Galveston County Judge Mark Henry reminded an audience at a recent luncheon event, is to avoid spread of infectious disease in a county peppered with marshes and standing water.
“We don’t spray so you don’t have to buy ‘Off!’ at Walmart,” he noted.
That said, residents on the Gulf Coast are encouraged to take their own measures to protect against mosquito-borne illness. Among measures recommended by the Texas Department of State Health Services: Eliminating standing water and other mosquito breeding areas; making sure door, porch and window screens are in good condition; wearing long sleeves and pants outdoors when possible, and using an insect repellent that contains DEET, picaridin, IR3535, or oil of lemon eucalyptus/para-menthane-diol.
Houston’s latest West Nile case was diagnosed as neuroinvasive disease, a more serious form of illness.
Symptoms of the milder form, West Nile fever, can include headache, fever, muscle and joint aches, nausea and fatigue. People with West Nile fever typically recover on their own, although symptoms may last for weeks to months. Symptoms of West Nile neuroinvasive disease can include those of West Nile fever plus neck stiffness, stupor, disorientation, coma, tremors, convulsions, muscle weakness and paralysis. West Nile Virus season typically runs from June through October. In 2014, there were 61 human cases of West Nile Virus illness in Harris County (excluding the City of Houston), including one WNV-related death. Statewide, there were 379 human cases of West Nile illness, including six deaths.
There are no medications to treat or vaccines to prevent West Nile virus infection. Those over 50 years old and those with other health issues are at a higher risk of becoming seriously ill or dying when they become infected, according to the DSHS.