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Texas man dies of West Nile virus

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Jul. 15--A man from the Vidor area is the first Texan to die of West Nile virus this year, according to the Texas Department of Health.

The man, whose name is not being released for privacy reasons, had a history of medical problems, according to a news release from the Orange County Mosquito Control District. He was in remission from lymphoma, which likely weakened his immune system, the release said.

The man originally was diagnosed and treated for pneumonia. He tested positive for West Nile virus and died in late June.

He was the first person in Texas to have the virus this year.

The Texas cases of West Nile virus this year mirror last year's cases, said Dawn Hesalroad, public health technician.

"Day-to-day, it looks about the same," she said.

She would not predict how many Texans would become sick or die from the virus this year.

Last year, state officials were notified of 439 Texans who had the disease and 38 deaths. In 2002, 202 Texans tested positive for the mosquito-borne disease and 13 died.

At least one other person, an Arizona resident, has died from the virus this year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Web site.

The last West Nile Virus fatality in Orange County was in 2002, the year the virus was first detected in Texas.

The Vidor man traveled to Houston, Liberty, Winnie and north of Vidor in the weeks before he became sick.

"This makes it difficult to determine exactly where he could have picked up the infection," the mosquito control agency's press release said.

A pool of mosquitoes collected in Vidor on May 27 tested positive for West Nile virus, the release said.

Spraying was increased in the area during June. Mosquitoes collected in the same area June 9 tested negative for the virus.

The mosquito control department has increased treatments and tests of mosquitoes in the Vidor area.

Orange County collects mosquitoes throughout the county every week. Those samples are sent to the Texas Department of Health's Bureau of Laboratories in Austin to test for the virus. Getting results usually takes seven to 10 days.

Currently, people in nine states -- Texas, Arizona, California, New Mexico, Florida, Michigan, Nebraska, South Dakota and Wyoming -- have tested positive for West Nile.

Although more than half of the 22 birds tested in Louisiana this week had died of West Nile virus, bringing the total to 78, no people have been diagnosed with the virus in the state this year, according to The Associated Press.

All of the 12 that tested positive were found the last week of June or in early July, the wire service reported. None came from parishes abutting Southeast Texas.

About 1 percent of people bitten by an infected mosquito become sick or have symptoms of the disease, according to the release from Orange County.

People with medical problems or compromised immune systems are at greater risk of developing more serious forms of the illness, including brain and spinal cord inflammation.

West Nile virus infections are usually mild, with symptoms including fever, headache, sore throat, body aches and fatigue. Symptoms of more severe infections include headache, high fever, stiff neck, disorientation, tremors, convulsions, muscle weakness, coma and paralysis.

To keep mosquitoes at bay, Southeast Texans should wear insect repellant with DEET, Orange County Mosquito Control Director Patrick Beebe advised.

Last year, 77 percent of the people who got serious forms of West Nile infection did not use repellants, according to the Texas Department of Health.

People also should stay inside at dawn and dusk, when mosquitoes are most active, and drain all the standing water from their property, Beebe advised. To keep mosquitoes away, wear light-colored, loose-fitting clothes.


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