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West Nile claims life in Ellis County

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SHERRY LONG
The Ellis County Press

ENNIS - The first Ellis County death due to the West Nile Virus was reported by the Texas Department of Health after long-time Ennis resident Nan McKay died July 27.

A second Ennis resident, Felix Mata, was transported to Baylor Medical Center in Dallas last week after he was suspected of suffering from the West Nile Virus.

His condition at press time was still unknown.

Also confirmed by Ellis County Health Authority Adam G. Arredondo

was two West Nile Virus Blue Jay deaths, one in Waxahachie and one in Ennis.

Texas Commissioner of Health Eduardo Sanchez said last year 202 people were infected with the virus, causing 13 fatalities.

Only two deaths have been attributed to the virus this year according to state health officials.

'We have been aggressively fighting larva since June 10 with larva side, Ennis City Manager Steve Howerton said.

The tablets dissolve slowly in water, up to 150 days, killing mosquito larva before they can become airborne.

Many cities, such as Dallas, use a spray to try to kill the larva.

The spraying has recently come under fire for the possible health hazards it might pose.

Howerton said the city did not want to take the possibility of making someone sick by spraying, so the city is waiting on the recommendation of the state as to whether they should spray for the virus throughout the community.

Texas Department of Health Epidemiologist Jim Schuermann said there are three types of illnesses associated with the virus.

He said 80 percent of people bitten by an infected mosquito will not develop any symptoms.

About 20 percent of infected people will develop a 'pretty mild illness,' suffering from mild fever, muscle aches and respiratory-type problems.

Persons developing meningitis or encephalitis are the most severe, with their illness usually causing hospitalization.

Last fall health officials discovered the virus could be transmitted through organ and blood donations.

Last September after a breast feeding and following a blood transfusion, a young Michigan mother with no symptoms was confirmed as having the West Nile virus.

Blood banks now have a way to screen blood for the West Nile Virus before it can be used, according to Schuermann.

The Associated Press has reported alligators seem to be passing the virus onto other animals as well.

'But researchers found levels of the virus in alligators that are as high as amounts in birds, which means the reptiles can likely pass the infection to other animals,' stated the Associated Press.

Jan Buck, a health department public health technician, said many people believe someone can contract West Nile Virus just by touching an infected bird with bare hands, but infected mosquitoes actually spread the virus by biting people and animals

'We tell people not to touch dead birds for general sanitation reasons,' she said.

After being bitten by a mosquito, symptoms begin to develop in about three to 14 days.

The virus arrived in Texas in 2002 after being identified in New York City in 1999.

The West Nile Virus is named after a region in Uganda where in 1937 the virus reportedly originated.

In third-world countries the disease is often considered a normal childhood fever disease, according to Buck.

'They think the immunity you develop is a lifetime immunity from the disease,' Schuermann said.

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