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- July 4, 2014

West Nile Virus is Baaaaack

The much-dreaded West Nile Virus is back in Texas, and according to our friends over at Austin’s own NBC affiliate KXAN-TV, Travis County is home to Patient Zero.

Watch:

Carried by mosquitos and transmitted by their bites, West Nile can inflict some nasty symptoms on its unlucky victims, up to and including intense fever, neck stiffness, paralysis and even death. Worse yet, the Centers for Disease Control says “there are no medications to treat or vaccines to prevent” the virus.

Scary, huh? Well, not so fast.

Every year around this time, right when folks are really starting to enjoy wearing shorts and flip flops morning, noon and night, someone comes down with symptoms of West Nile and the media goes crazy over it. And if you think about it, crazymaking over  killer bug bites is not a bad strategy. Clothing retailers and the purveyors of all things bugspray are sure to like it, and they certainly do buy ads. This is Austin, after all, the Conspiracy Capital of the World. But then again, it’s unlikely that the clothing-and-bugspray cartel really has that much sway over the media. At least, not yet.

Still, the TV guys always seem to save the best part of each year’s West Nile reporting for the very end, just like our friends at KXAN did in the video above. The  best part is that fewer than 1 percent of people who actually get West Nile will ever experience any symptoms. Added: You’re much more likely to be struck by lightning at some point in your life than you are likely to come down with West Nile because you went to a cookout and saw some fireworks tonight.

Of course, if you’re someone with a weakened immune system, or you’re a high-functioning hypocondriac who’s determined to enjoy BBQ and pretty explosions tonight, do take steps to protect yourself. West Nile has killed people. It IS possible. Here’s what Texas health officials recommend you do to prepare:

  1. Use an approved insect repellent every time you go outside. Approved repellents are those that contain DEET, picaridin or oil of lemon eucalyptus. Follow the instructions on the label.
  2. Regularly drain standing water, including water that collects in empty cans, tires, buckets, clogged rain gutters and saucers under potted plants. Mosquitoes breed in stagnant water. 
  3. Wear long sleeves and pants at dawn and dusk when mosquitoes are most active.
  4. Use air conditioning or make sure there are screens on all doors and windows to keep mosquitoes from entering the home.

So buy your bug spray, dump out your stagnant bucket of rainwater and wear your bluejeans to the fireworks this evening, but don’t get your undies in a twist about those tiny winged devils swarming around your family, potentially infecting them with a deadly virus. It’s just another day in Texas, really.
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Photo: Flickr user Tom, creative commons licensed.