It’s here. Mosquito season has arrived and everyone should be making the necessary precautionary measures to keep themselves from getting bitten, officials say.
Mosquitoes carry an array of diseases. However, West Nile virus is the leading cause of mosquito-borne disease in the U.S. and one that’s commonly tested for in Cooke County.
Each year, Cooke County Emergency Management Coordinator Ray Fletcher works with the city of Gainesville to collect mosquitoes and test them for disease. While testing typically begins in early May, Fletcher said he is delaying the start of collecting mosquito samples until the end of the month because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Mosquitoes are also collected in Lake Kiowa and randomly selected areas of the county, according to archived Register reports.
He said many local resources as well as those at the state level “relative to testing are pretty tapped out right now.”
“I would still recommend the 4 D’s and remember that just because we haven’t trapped a mosquito that has it doesn’t mean it isn’t here,” Fletcher said. “Much like COVID-19 I would behave like it’s out there and protect myself and family accordingly.”
West Nile virus is most commonly spread to people by the bite of an infected mosquito. There are no vaccines to prevent or medications to treat West Nile virus in people.
According to the Texas Department of State Health Services, most people infected with West Nile virus — about 80% — will not develop an illness. The other 20% infected could develop a mild form of West Nile fever, which may include fever, headache, body aches, and occasionally a skin rash on the trunk of the body and swollen lymph glands. Only about one out of 150 people infected with West Nile virus will develop the more severe form of the disease, West Nile neuroinvasive disease, which may affect the brain and spinal cord, according to the state’s website. The signs and symptoms of severe disease may include headache, high fever, neck stiffness, stupor, disorientation, coma, tremors, convulsions, muscle weakness and paralysis.
The incubation period of West Nile virus in humans is two to 14 days. Signs and symptoms of mild disease may last a few days. Signs and symptoms of severe disease may last several weeks or months, though neurological effects may be permanent. While rare, death can occur, officials say.
With the coronavirus going around, it could be hard for some to tell the difference.
COVID-19 is the disease caused by the coronavirus. Its symptoms include fever, cough, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, chills, repeated shaking with chills, new loss of taste or smell, headache, muscle pain or a sore throat, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Symptoms can appear two to 14 days after exposure.
“The main difference in presenting symptoms is the respiratory symptoms of COVID,” said North Texas Medical Center spokeswoman Kristi Rigsby. “ … Certainly seek medical attention if any symptoms are severe, or you are concerned that you may have been exposed to either virus.”
According to the TDSHS weekly arbovirus activity report ending May 2, there were two pools of mosquitoes that have tested positive for West Nile statewide for counties already testing. There were no reported human cases.
There were no reports of positive West Nile virus cases in Cooke County last year, according to Fletcher.
In September 2018, West Nile was detected in a mosquito sample collected from the 500 block of Davis Street in Gainesville.
In 2017, a Cooke County man in his 40s tested positive for the West Nile virus after being bitten by an infected mosquito, according to previous reports in the Register.
The county started testing for mosquito-borne diseases in 2012.