Health Department Not Testing For Deadly West Nile Virus

By: Rashi Vats Email
By: Rashi Vats Email

Brazos County Health Department says they are not testing for the West Nile Virus even though they claim the county is under a severe threat.

The season for West Nile started this month.

Doctors say if a mosquito infected with the West Nile virus bites you, it could cause serious health effects. In fact in the past 5 years, 2 deaths have been reported in Brazos County.

There are six acres in west Bryan that Donnie Manry calls paradise. It's his backyard.

The former Bryan Police Officer never worried about spending time outdoors until he says “I started one day with a headache. A bad headache. Back of the neck. The neck went into the shoulders and into the back and the pain was just unbearable. You literally felt like your muscles were being ripped apart."

A mosquito infected with the deadly West Nile Virus bit Manry in 2006. The disease spread. Now he's partially paralyzed from the waist down.

Because of a lack of public education on the virus, he says he never asked doctors about West Nile.

After being seen by several doctor's , one finally tested him for it.

He's never met the insect that changed his life, but Dr. Mark Johnsen has.

"I have trapped every positive West Nile mosquito in Brazos County. I set the trap for every single one for the past couple of years,” said Dr. Johnsen who is an Environmental Health Specialist for the Brazos County Health Department.

His primary job at the health department is to inspect restaurants. But on his time off, he sets out his own mosquito traps across the county.

We went to his boss, the director of environmental health services, Don Plitt.

"Since we have no cases to speak of these past years, we've really not paid special attention to it basically,” said Plitt.

Here are the statistics:

2007 and 2008 - 6 human cases and 2 deaths.
2009- one mosquito tested positive.
2010- no cases came up.
2011--- Plitt says they didn't test.

Drought conditions and state funding cuts to public health are other factors Plitt attributes to the lack of testing.

"If there was more money we would be doing more PSAs for sure, we would be doing more testing,” Plitt said.

Here's a current fact that might surprise you.

"The whole county is positive for West Nile. We tried to help people out by looking at specific locations,” Plitt said.

Like thousands of Brazos County residents, Plitt works and lives in the red so taking precaution is a must.

"Deet works. I keep a can of spray on my front porch and every time I go outside with shorts on I spray down. It's just a way of life now,” said Plitt.

It’s a routine Manry knows all too well now.

"So many people because of under reporting or misreporting or lack of information, they think that this thing has gone away. It's not there anymore. I'm here to tell you it is. It's rampant,” said Manry.

Manry isn’t letting the fear of a mosquito bite, stop him from living in paradise.

He said, "life is a blessing. I'm going to live it to its' fullest. "

According to the Center For Disease Control and Prevention, to prevent WNV and other mosquito-borne diseases, remember:

•Use Mosquito Repellent
•Eliminate standing water where mosquitoes can lay eggs
•Install or Repair Window and Door Screens
•Support Community-Based Mosquito Control Programs

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