West Nile virus infection in severe cases can develop into encephalitis, inflammation of the brain, or meningitis, inflammation of the membrane surrounding the brain. However, most people infected with the virus experience mild illness characterized by flu-like symptoms including fever, headache, body aches and occasionally skin rash and swollen lymph glands.
Severe infections can cause high fever, headache, stiff neck, disorientation coma, tremors muscle weakness and paralysis. Symptoms usually develop three to 15 days after infection with the virus.
Although the elderly and those with weakened immune systems are at highest risk of severe illness, the virus poses a risk to all residents. The Houston Department of Health and Human Services recommends that residents take precautions to prevent mosquito bites:
- Wear long pants and long-sleeved shirts while outdoors, especially from dusk to dawn.
- Use insect repellent that contains DEET. Children should use insect repellents that contain less than 10 percent DEET. Do not apply DEET on babies. Adults should use insect repellents that contain more than 10 percent DEET.
Keep the storm sewers clean to reduce mosquito breeding
- Sweep up lawn clippings, leaves and limbs from sidewalks, driveways, curbs and gutters.
- Don’t let lawn water or car washing water enter the street.
- Pick up litter and other debris from your yard and the street.
Keep the mosquitoes out of your house
- Keep doors and windows closed.
- Seal cracks and gaps in the house.
- If mosquitoes are in the house, use flying insect spray, following label instructions.
Other actions to prevent mosquito breeding
- Empty, remove or dispose of anything in the yard that can hold water: flower pot saucers, cans, toys, litter, rain barrels, plastic sheeting, etc.
- Pet water bowls and birdbaths should be emptied and refilled at least twice a week.
- Keep the rain gutters on you house clean and properly draining.
- Repair household water leaks, move air conditioner drain hose frequently.
- Report water and sewer main leaks and breaks to 311.