Officials held a press conference Thursday due to concerns about the increasing numbers of West Nile Virus cases in Montgomery and surrounding counties. Mark Escott, Deputy Heath Authority for Montgomery County said there are six confirmed local cases, nine confirmed in Harris County and a total of 17 in the region.
“We’re concerned in this case because with our historical numbers this is a significant increase over prior years,” Escott said. “Our largest year by volume so far has been 2012. We had 17 total cases in the county for that year.”
At this point in 2012, the county had only three confirmed cases of West Nile – half of the current number.
“The fact that it’s doubled makes us more concerned there might be a more significant peak this year, which happens between September and October,” he said. “Our efforts right now are to increase mosquito spraying, precinct by precinct in Montgomery County, but also increasing the public attention, so that they can take personal responsibility and spray themselves when outside from dusk til dawn.”
The first cases were only in South Montgomery County, but recent cases have been discovered in Magnolia and Conroe, so the problem appears to be widespread. However, the location is based on the patient’s home address and not necessarily where they contracted the virus.
Escott said symptoms are initially similar to the flu, with fever, fatigue, headaches, and muscle aches. As it progresses, the symptoms resemble meningitis and encephalitis, with sever neck pain, severe headaches and sensitivity to light.
Like with most viruses, he said, there is no treatment but only symptom management that includes supportive care in an ICU, along with respiratory management.
“The best thing to do is to wear mosquito spray containing DEET,” Escott said.
Surprisingly, studies show 80 percent of those who contract West Nile never have symptoms. Only 20 percent develop any symptoms, and only one percent develop severe symptoms. Patients with severe cases of West Nile range in age from teens to the elderly.
“It’s likely lots and lots of people have it, but it never gets reported because it looks like the flu,” Escott said.