Don’t be in Denial of West Nile

7 10 2015

West Nile Virus disease is here to stay in Dumas, Moore county and the Texas panhandle.  More cases are reported every week most likely due to the wetter than normal summer this year.

Ten years ago, we had never heard of it.  We were more likely to get sleeping sickness or malaria than something esoteric like West Nile Virus.  West Nile is a virus that originated in the Middle East and has made it’s way to the US and is moving westward.  It can infect humans, birds and horses from a mosquito bite and it can be deadly if it gets into the nervous system.   People with weakened immune systems are at most risk but it can even knock down a seemingly healthy person.

It really hit home this last month when one of my employees came down with a brain infection (encephalitis) from a mosquito bite in her backyard here in town.   She is recovering slowly after being unconscious for over a week and on a respirator and feeding tube.   Short of a miraculous healing, it will take many, many months to recover.  I have two patients that I have also seen that have the after effects of the disease.  One doesn’t have any eye problems but the other has damage to his optic nerve of the left eye, leaving him with permanent damage to his vision.

By the time people are having eye problems, they are probably in the hospital.  I have yet to see anyone in my office with early symptoms and I hope not to.  The problems that happen with the eye can have devastating complications to the vision.  Inflammation or infection can occur inside the back chamber of the eye (vitritis), in the retinal tissue (retinitis and choroiditis) as well as inflammation to the optic nerve (optic neuritis).   All can cause permanent vision loss.

Since eye problems from West Nile Virus are usually not the first sign of illness, I write about it more to create awareness of this relatively new disease to our area since it can be devastating to the body and even fatal.

Early signs and symptoms take 2-14 days incubation after a recent mosquito bite.  They vary from person to person such as fever, headaches, neck ache, joint pain, diarrhea, vomiting, fatigue and less commonly a rash on the check, back or legs.   The severe form that affects your nervous system can cause disorientation, seizures, brain infections and even death in 1% of cases.

I would encourage city, county and state agencies as well as school officials to increase awareness of the disease and prevention.  Contact them and ask what they are doing to kill mosquitos to prevent the disease.   Spraying alleys and enforcing ordinances for residences with trash and high weeds around houses and vacant lots are important.   You yourself can make sure to apply insect repellant that contains the chemical DEET when going outside and especially on your children.   Avoid putting on moisturizer creams and fragrances that might attract mosquitos as well as not going out after dark when they are most active.  Consider wearing pants and long sleeve shirts too.  Make sure to remove standing water out of old tires, buckets and flowerpots, etc., which can be used as breeding sites.

If you look at the maps that show incidences of infection, Moore county is not indicated.  ( Centers for Disease Control )   I would speculate that cases are reported from the hospital they are being treated at when diagnosed, not WHERE they were bit and infected.  In the case of my employee, she hadn’t traveled anywhere and knew she had been bit in her backyard garden a few days earlier when she got really sick.   So take care out there.   We don’t have to live in fear, we just need to be aware and be smart to help prevent the spread of the disease.   Even though we live in the middle of nowhere, Moore county is not immune.

 

Courtesy of Dumas Vision Source, PLLC and Dr Tory W. Moore, Optometric Glaucoma Specialist and Diplomate of the American Board of Optometry.    Serving the Dumas, Texas,  Moore County and upper Texas Panhandle area for 25 years.   Call (806) 935-2020 for appointment or visit our optical gallery without an appointment.  Visit our website www.visionsource-dumas.com for more information.  Like our Facebook business page:  Dumas Vision Source  and you can also connect on Twitter @eyedocdumas

Tory Moore, OD  – “A Hometown Eye Doctor You Know and Can Trust!”

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