RICHARDSON (CBSDFW.COM) – Dallas County has recorded its first case of the West Nile virus in a human being in Richardson, health officials announced Wednesday.
It now joins Denton County in recording a case this early in the summer season.
During a press conference, officials blamed the early diagnosis on a mild winter that failed to kill off many seasonal insects coupled with a wet spring that has produced a bumper crop of mosquitoes, including ones that carry the virus.
Health officials plan to spray in Highland Park Wednesday. Dallas sprayed in the Lake Highlands area on Tuesday.
“I’m happy they’re doing it,” said Becky Koelpin, a mother of 10. “I had noticed more mosquitoes around the house.”
Nancy Bowen echoed Koelpin’s concern.
“Yeah, wasn’t aware of that, but that is scary. I’ll think about it,” she said.
Now that they know, these Dallas moms say they’ll take extra precautions to help keep their families safe from the virus. It’s a message county officials hope hits every home now that there’s the confirmed case in a Richardson resident.
“We’re very alarmed, we’re very concerned,” said county Health and Human Services Director Zachary Thompson. “We’ve seen a number of positive mosquito pools around Dallas County. That leads us to believe that we’re in for a long summer.”
No one is identifying the victim, but Richardson officials say the bite location was near U.S. 75 and Beltline Road.
“This is the earliest we’ve seen from previous years in terms of mosquito pools, so this is why we’re concerned,” Thompson said.
He says there was only one case in Dallas County last year and none the year before. But in 2006 there were 104. Full blown West Nile infections can be debilitating and deadly.
“It can happen to anyone, anywhere, and it’s most likely to happen in your neighborhood or in your back yard,” said surgeon Dr. Don Read.
He came down with it in 2005 and it left him speechless, deaf and partially paralyzed. He spent a year in hospitals and rehabilitation and still wears leg braces. He can no longer perform all of the surgeries he used to, and he still has to pace himself.
“If I do way too much my muscles actually get weaker and it may take me two weeks –– one time it took me two months –– to recover,” Read said.
He says while the very old and very young are most at risk, West Nile can strike anyone at any age. He discussed some members of a West Nile support group he helped found.
“We had two 35-year-olds who ended up on a ventilator for a prolonged period of time,” Read said. “Most of us think we’re 17 and bullet-proof until something happens to us.”
All the county officals agree that wearing DEET, a mosquito pesticide, and eliminating puddles of water where the insects breed are good precautions. So is chemical spraying, and various agencies use mosquito traps to let them know what areas to hit.
Mosquitoes are lured into tubs of water fermented with grass to lay their eggs. Then they’re scooped up to a tube device with a fan and net, said Dallas County mosquito technician Daryl Beckwith.
“We hook this (tube) up to a battery; the fan sucks the mosquitoes through, and they end inside this net, which fits on top,” Beckwith said.
Samples from both cities and the county are sent to a county lab in Dallas and a state lab in Austin. Besides chemical spraying, eliminating puddles and wearing DEET, people are advised to wear long pants and shirts outside if possible, especially if they’re out in mornings or evenings.
That’s when mosquitoes are most active.