Last week, the first Dallas resident came down with West Nile fever. It's news, but it's also to be expected. The virus has been in Texas since 2002, and every summer carries the potential for cases (and lots of spraying). Even though West Nile's 2012 summer was unprecedented, the virus is preventable. Use repellant, wear pants and long sleeves, put screens on your windows; you'll be OK.
On Tuesday, though, health officials announced a Dallas County resident had contracted the chikungunya virus. It's the seventh case in the state, according to state health officials, but the first in DFW. The mosquito that spreads chikungunya is a cousin to the West Nile carrier. So far, the people infected have imported the virus from foreign countries to the states, but the virus could potentially spread here.
Because this summer is the first time state health officials have had to deal with chikungunya, they don't know if it will be a consistent problem, said Christine Mann, spokeswoman for the Department of State Health Services.
Chikungunya had already thrown area health officials a summer curve ball, but now another virus has been added to the mix.
Wednesday, the Tarrant County health department announced a resident had been diagnosed with measles as part of a possible outbreak in Kansas. In response, the Dallas County Department of Health and Human Services announced an investigation into the matter.
While state officials are worried about the two mosquito viruses, Mann said, the measles poses the more immediate risk.
"At the moment, we're more concerned about measles because of its potential to spread rapidly," she said. About 90 percent of people who are around an infected person will contract the virus if they are not vaccinated, she said. Breathing and coughing is enough to spread the virus, according to a Tarrant County press release.
The Tarrant County resident is one of seven state cases this year, Mann said. Over July 4th weekend, about 30 Texans traveled to a softball tournament in Wichita, Kansas. All 30 could have been exposed, and the state health department is having a hard time tracking them all down, Mann said.
After someone is exposed to the virus, vaccination up to six days later can save a person from symptoms, Mann said. But after that short window, vaccinations won't do any good. Because of the two-to-three weeks it takes for the virus to manifest itself in a person, there could be more confirmed cases soon from the people who traveled to Kansas, she said.
There were 16 measles cases in Tarrant County last year. Dallas County had two. There were no cases across the state in 2012, according to a state press release. Measles was eradicated in the states so, like chikungunya, travelers who were infected abroad bring the disease back here.
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