Harris County confirms first West Nile Virus death in 2018

Harris County Public Health (HCPH)  has confirmed a West Nile virus (WNV) related death in Harris County, making it the first WNV-associated death in the county . The patient, whose identity will remain confidential, had underlying chronic health conditions, and is a 45-54 year-old male from Southwest Harris County.

The health department had originally stated in a press release that this was the first West Nile Virus death in the state this year, but later learned of a West Nile Virus related death in Dallas County last month. It still remains the first West Nile Virus death in Harris Couty

“We are devastated to report the first West Nile virus-associated death, and our hearts go out to the family. Mosquitoes can spread a variety of diseases and those who are most vulnerable; children, aging and immuno-suppressed individuals, are at a higher risk of dying of mosquito-borne diseases,” stated Umair A. Shah, MD, MPH, executive director of HCPH. 

West Nile season typically runs from June through October. As of today, 303 mosquito samples have tested positive for the virus. The areas where those samples have been detected have been sprayed to reduce the risk of disease. So far this year, a total of six human cases of WNV have been confirmed (including this WNV associated death) in Harris County and the City of Houston.  

Most people who are infected with West Nile will not develop any symptoms. However, about 1-in-5 people who are infected develop a fever with other symptoms such as headache, body aches, joint pains, vomiting, diarrhea or rash. More severe signs and symptoms can include: high fever, stiff neck, stupor, disorientation, tremors, convulsions, muscle weakness, vision loss, encephalitis (inflammation of the brain) or meningitis (inflammation of the membranes that surround the brain and spinal cord).

Severe illness can occur in people of any age; however, people over 60 years of age are at greater risk. People with certain medical conditions, such as cancer, diabetes, hypertension, kidney disease, and people who have received organ transplants, are also at greater risk. About 1 out of 10 people who develop severe illness affecting the central nervous system die. If you have symptoms similar to West Nile virus, please contact your health provider immediately.