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Local mosquitoes carry West Nile virus

Published: Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Updated: Wednesday, July 25, 2012 21:07

Mosquitos found near the McFerrin Athletic Building, next to Kyle Field, on campus were confirmed as West Nile positive by the Brazos County Health Department this week. This is the first West Nile positive mosquito site in the Brazos County
since 2009.

The West Nile virus is an infection transmitted by mosquitos that causes severe flu-like symptoms. The virus, which originates from Africa, was first detected in the U.S. in 2009 according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In the past years, hundreds have been affected and the incurable disease continues as a threat.

Sara Mendez, health education spokesperson for the Brazos County Health Department, said the West Nile season starts this time of year and runs until October.

“From May to October, the virus is most prevalent and so that is the time frame for our department to conduct testing,” Mendez said. “We have been setting traps for about three weeks now.”

Mendez said weekly tests are conducted in different areas in Bryan, College Station, the Brazos Valley, and Texas A&M University campus.

“We attract the mosquitos with stagnant water and a net. As the mosquitos go into the water to lay eggs they get caught in the net,” Mendez said. “From there, we send them to the Texas Department of State Health Services to be tested.”

Mendez said the last trap with mosquitos carrying West Nile was found in 2009, also on campus. She said the department consistently tests the A&M golf course as the area repeatedly tested positive for West Nile.

Donnie Manry, a sergeant for the Bryan Police Department for 25 years, contracted the West Nile virus in 2006. He said while he was diagnosed when the virus affected hundreds, people should be aware the virus is still a threat.

“In our area, we’ve had several fatalities and cases within the years. A lot of areas repeatedly test positive – playgrounds, parks, and golf courses. People need to be aware,” Manry said.

Manry speaks with victims of the virus and family about their symptoms and recovery each year. He said he encourages everyone to get tested for the West Nile virus and take proper safety measures.

Less than one percent of people infected contract a serious neurological infection called West Nile Neuroinvasive Disease. The disease occurs in three stages: encephalitis, characterized by swelling of the brain; meningitis, an infection of the spinal cord; and poliomyelitis, paralysis of the limbs and, in some cases, respiratory failure. Manry contracted all three stages of WNND.

“I contracted poliomyelitis in conjuction with encephalitis and meningitis. I almost died in the beginning and spent six months in a rehabilitation facility” Manry said. “I was completely paralyzed from the waist down. I spent two and a half years in a wheel-chair recovering.”

In addition to the wheel chair, Manry used full-length polio leg braces, crutches, and a cane to regain mobility. He said he continues to struggle even today because of the virus.

“The main thing is, West Nile changes your whole life. I have trouble now even six years later with steps, stairs, and inclines. You have to adapt and overcome,” Manry said.

Manry said he wants people to remember West Nile virus is still alive and causes people to get sick each year.

“A lot of testing of mosquitos and dead birds has gone down along with media coverage and funding but people need to be aware,” Manry said. “Prevent the bite and prevent the illness. Take the precautions — the four Ds.”

The four Ds are the recommended defenses by the Texas Department of State Health Services to combat the West Nile virus. They include draining standing water around the house, wearing insect repellent containing DEET, staying indoors at dusk and dawn when mosquitos are most active, and dressing in long sleeves and pants when outdoors to prevent bites.

Tim Durbin, senior environmental design architecture major, said he was surprised to see West Nile back as a threat and intends to take precautions to stay safe this summer.

“I heard about the West Nile found on campus on the news and hope more students are also becoming aware,” Durbin said. “I’m kind of worried about it myself because I have a lot of standing water near my house. I’m going to try and get bug spray to keep around.”

 

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