Texas Reports 120th West Nile Virus Case During 2018

West Nile virus vaccine candidate HydroVax-001 is in phase 1 clinical trial
texas flag painted on the side of a barn
(Precision Vaccinations)

It may be Fall, but mosquitoes are still biting and spreading infectious diseases in Texas. 

Specifically, the West Nile virus (WNV) remains a concern throughout the state of Texas, with new cases reported most weeks. 

As of November 27, 2018, the Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS) has confirmed 120 human cases of West Nile in 2018, including 2 deaths.

The Texas DSHS typically reports new West Nile cases into the month of December each year. 

During 2017, Texas reported 135 cases of West Nile illness that resulted in 6 deaths. 

“I believe there’s a need for a WNV Vaccine for Texas and we’re also working to help in its development," said Peter Jay Hotez, M.D., Ph.D., Dean for the National School of Tropical Medicine, Baylor College of Medicine. 

"Sadly with an aggressive antivaccine lobby in Texas, which so far has mostly halted the introduction of the HPV vaccine for teenage girls and boys, I’m pessimistic that we’ll be able to introduce something like a WNV Vaccine anytime soon”, said Hotez, author of Vaccines Did Not Cause Rachel's Autism.

Throughout the USA, a total of 49 states and the District of Columbia have reported West Nile virus infections in people, birds, or mosquitoes as of November 27, 2018, reports the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). 

The leading states are Nebraska (240), North Dakota (201), and California (182). 

Overall, 2,402 cases of West Nile virus disease in people have been reported to CDC.   

Of these, 1,490 (62%) were classified as neuroinvasive diseases, such as meningitis or encephalitis, and 912 (38%) were classified as non-neuroinvasive disease. 

West Nile Virus is a member of the flavivirus genus and belongs to the Japanese encephalitis antigenic complex of the family Flaviviridae, says the CDC. 

Up to 80 percent of people infected with West Nile virus will have no symptoms. 

However, some infections can result in serious illness or death, says Texas DSHS.   

People over 50 years of age and those with weakened immune systems are at a higher risk of becoming seriously ill if they become infected with the virus. 

Since there is not a preventive vaccine available, Your best defense against West Nile is to practice these 4 habits: 

  • Use an approved insect repellent every time you go outside. Approved repellents are those that contain DEET, picaridin or oil of lemon eucalyptus. Follow the instructions on the label,
  • Regularly drain standing water, including water that collects in empty cans, tires, buckets, clogged rain gutters and saucers under potted plants. Mosquitoes breed in stagnant water,
  • Wear long sleeves and pants at dawn and dusk when mosquitoes are most active,
  • Use air conditioning or make sure there are screens on all doors and windows to keep mosquitoes from entering the home. 

There is potentially some good news on the horizon regarding a West Nile vaccine. 

An experimental vaccine candidate HydroVax-001 is in an active phase 1 clinical trial. 

But, since this is an early stage, phase 1 clinical trial, the HydroVax-001 vaccine may be years away from receiving FDA approval.