West Nile virus illnesses in Texas continue to rise dramatically, with the number of cases this summer rising to 1,013 — with 40 deaths. That is a 58 percent increase in cases and 74 percent increase in deaths. State officials warned that the infections may continue until the first hard freeze of the year. To protect yourself and your family from exposure to mosquitoes infected with West Nile virus:
- Be sure to wear long pants and long sleeves during dusk and dawn.
- Apply a repellant with DEET.
- Remove all standing water from the yard.
West Nile virus is asymptomatic in 80% of those infected. 20% of patients present with clinical disease. West Nile virus can cause a neuro-invasive disease or West Nile fever. In addition, a recent research study completed by Dr. Art Leis indicated that 40% of West Nile fever patients also had markers for the more serious West Nile illness indicating the effects of West Nile fever may be more extensive than previously thought.
In the more severe cases, patients can develop a variety of neurological deficits including meningitis, encephalitis and polio-like limb weakness. Rehabilitation at an intensive rehabilitation hospital and the expertise of neurology may be required. Patients may require physical therapy for strengthening and training to learn to walk again, occupational therapy to relearn activities of daily living such as bathing, dressing and toileting and speech therapy to address any deficits in cognitive function, memory, swallow or communication.
There is no cure or treatment for West Nile virus. Until our first hard freeze, remember to protect yourself and your family from exposure to mosquitoes.
Diane Owens, PT, FACHE
St. David’s Rehabilitation Hospital