Erin Stone
A Dallas County Health and Human Services worker prepared to spray for mosquitoes in 2016.

Dallas County Reports First Death In Otherwise Slow Start to West Nile Season

Dallas County Health and Human Services officials announced late Friday that the county has had its first death from West Nile virus in 2017. The deceased patient, unidentified because of health privacy laws, became the county's first diagnosed case of West Nile in 2017 on July 14. According to the county, the patient suffered from an underlying medical condition.

Compared with previous years' West Nile seasons, this year's is off to a slow start. Doctors have diagnosed a second Dallas County resident with the virus. By this point in 2016, Dallas County Health and Human Services had reported 14 cases of West Nile, which is transmitted via mosquito bite. The virus causes fever, headaches, muscle aches and, in severe cases, neurologic complications like encephalitis.

By the end of 2016, 61 Dallas County residents were diagnosed with West Nile neuroinvasive disease or West Nile fever, the two conditions under the West Nile Virus umbrella. Those 61 cases in 2016 were the most suffered in Dallas County since the West Nile outbreak of 2012. That year, 398 Dallas County residents contracted West Nile, leading to 21 deaths.

Brian Maschino
Scott Sawlis of Dallas County Health and Human Services demonstrates a mosquito trap.

According to the county health department, the best way to avoid West Nile and other mosquito-borne illnesses is to avoid getting bitten by mosquitoes.The department recommends following the "four Ds" to avoid bites. Residents should use mosquito repellent with DEET as an active ingredient; dress in long, loose-fitting, light-colored clothing, drain all standing water; and limit outdoor activities during the dusk and dawn hours when mosquitoes are most active.

Stephen Young has written about Dallas news for the Observer since 2014. He's a Dallas native and a graduate of the University of North Texas.

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