I am a Texas resident and there have been several huge reports over the past few weeks of people contracting the West Nile Virus from mosquitoes. In fact, several people have died. I believe the first two people to die a couple of weeks ago were in the Dallas area, near where my oldest daughter, Heather, lives.
It is difficult to put this in the back of your mind when it is coming on the news constantly. I do not get overly concerned about many news stories because of sensationalism, but I know this virus is a real threat. I now hear the mosquito trucks racing down our street most every night and that is a reason to be concerned because our area rarely has the mosquito trucks running. I guess the virus is spreading so much that each city is in desperation mode to not have an outbreak linked to their city-name.
However, it became more difficult to live normal, as usual, when I catch a government-promoted commercial that was aired this evening, filmed with David Lakey, M.D., the Texas Commissioner of Health as the featured speaker. The title next to his head on the screen is, "West Nile Virus: Protect Yourself."
Dr. Lakey starts out by saying, "The West Nile Virus is threatening Texas, but you can protect yourself."
The commercial goes on to list a number of four "easy tips: to protect yourself from contracting this virus that is transmitted via a mosquito bite:
1. Always use insect repellent.
2. Wear long sleeves and pants outside
3. Stay indoors at dawn and dusk
4. Drain standing water (they show a tire in the yard being lifted so water can be drained)
The commissioner then says, "These tips are your best defense. People older than fifty or with underlying health problems are most at risk for getting ill from the virus."
Finally, he gives a suggestion to "learn more about the West Nile Virus at TXWestNile.org," which has the website also displayed on the screen. Then, the commercial comes to a close.
After seeing this commercial, I am starting to realize that this virus is much more serious than I had been thinking; it seems to have spread so much that the state government is intervening. If any of you have worked for the government, you kind of know that this is a sign that things are probably going much worse than the general public realizes.
I do admire the Commissioner for speaking straight-forward and no one can say he did not try to warn Texans to protect themselves. However, we just left the month of August by a couple of days and it's a pain to keep spraying insect repellent on your body after you just stepped out of the shower with clean skin and the suggestion to wear long sleeves and pants when outside is something few Texans will consider. At this time of year...most are wearing cool clothes so they do not suffer a heat-stroke. So, I think #2 on the list will be most difficult to convince people to do.
As for #3 with staying indoors at dawn and dusk, I am doing that already. However, I do step outside early in the morning to feed the chickens, so I guess I should put a can of insect repellent at the door and spray a quick burst of mosquito repellent on me before heading outdoors to spread chicken feed. Since I rarely go out at dusk, this one is covered for me, but for so many others, they are enjoying their evenings out without thinking about becoming seriously ill from this virus.
Regardless, this commercial has been a wake-up call.
As of August 30th, in Houston and Harris County combined, there have been 30 confirmed West Nile Virus cases and three deaths. The news says to wear a product with DEET as it is more effective in preventing mosquito bites. I believe the overall death toll for the West Nile Virus, as of just a couple of weeks ago, had reached approximately 17 people...I don't know exact stats, but for my metropolitan area, for there to be three deaths and then two that I know of in the Dallas area, it appears to be making its round. Supposedly, this is becoming widespread more quickly than anticipated.
I will do my best to protect myself and hope that I can convince my daughters to be wise and heed the warnings of the state commissioner for this health issue. It would be better to be safe than sorry.