Health Watch

Local health officials confirm Austin's first probable case of West Nile Virus

Local health officials confirm Austin's first case of West Nile Virus

mosquito west nile virus
Mosquito season has brought Austin's first confirmed case of West Nile since 2018. Janos Csongor Kerekes/Getty Images

Two weeks after confirming a pool of mosquitoes tested positive for West Nile inside the city limits, Austin Public Health announced the region's first probable human case of the virus. Details on the patient are scarce, but officials confirmed in a news release that the patient was an adult resident of "northern Travis County."

Though it is estimated that only 20 percent of people infected with West Nile develop symptoms, when they do, they often present similarly to those of the novel coronavirus, including fever, headache, and body aches. West Nile can also cause a skin rash on the trunk of the body and swollen lymph glands.

Where it differs, of course, is through transmission. APH notes that unlike COVID-19 and similar viruses, West Nile cannot be spread through coughing or sneezing. The only way a human can contract it is through an infected mosquito. 

APH has had two pools in Central Austin test positive for West Nile this summer: one in the 78756 ZIP code, which includes Rosedale and Brentwood, and another in the 78751 ZIP code, which is Hyde Park and North Loop. Austin has not had a pool of mosquitoes test positive for West Nile since 2018.

“The first probable human case of West Nile Virus disease serves as a reminder to take precautions to prevent the breeding of mosquitoes, which can then bite and infect people in our community,” said Janet Pichette, chief epidemiologist for APH, in a release. “Like many other diseases, we have the power to prevent West Nile Virus by draining standing water, limiting time spent outdoors, and wearing appropriate clothing and DEET when outdoors.”

When it doubt, just remember the four D's: dusk, dress, DEET, and drain. Mosquitoes are a pest any time of day, but those with West Nile are particularly active from dusk to dawn. When outside, make sure to dress in loose-fitting clothing with long sleeves and wear bug spray with DEET. 

Of all of the D's, APH says the most effective way to prevent mosquitoes is to drain water. "Mosquitoes can only breed in standing water and need as little as one teaspoon," says APH. "By draining all sources of standing water in and around your property, you reduce the number of places mosquitoes can lay their eggs and breed."

On July 23, health officials in Tarrant County reported the state's first case of the year.