Experts urge awareness of mosquitos, West Nile virus education as summer begins

KBTX News 3 at Ten(Recurring)
Published: Jun. 9, 2023 at 8:53 PM CDT
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BRYAN, Texas (KBTX) - According to Texas A&M Professor and Extension Specialist, Sonja Swiger, the most common time to see a mosquito test positive for West Nile Virus is the summer to fall months.

Around this time in the past few years, Brazos County officials have announced positive cases in our community. While there are currently no reports of a positive mosquito in Brazos County, Swiger says it’s important to always be aware of the illness.

“The mosquito is considered the deadliest of all animals and it’s because of the diseases they can carry. Now in Texas, we do have diseases of concern, not that we have to be on high alert, but we still need to know they’re out there in Texas. Our biggest concern is West Nile virus,” she said.

Swiger says right now, two Texas counties have positive cases.

Donnie Manry, a Bryan resident, was bit by a West Nile virus-positive mosquito in 2006.

“When it came on I didn’t understand what was going on. The first thing that I noticed was a sore, stiff neck. Over a period of about six days that progressed to difficulty walking and by day six, I was paralyzed from the chest down,” he said. “What I contract was neuroinvasive West Nile. And usually, that is either encephalitis, meningitis or what they call poliomyelitis. Usually, it’s one of the three and I had all three.”

Manry was told by doctors he wouldn’t live, then that he would never walk again. Against those odds, Manry got to walk both his daughters down the aisle and enjoys spending time with his grandkids.

But, he does live with the lifelong effects that came with the virus. Manry relies on a cane to help keep his balance and has begun to notice neurocognitive decline and motor skills abnormalities.

“It was tough. A lot of damage took a long time to get through rehab and get back up with some kind of mobility and still have a lot of permanent damage today from that,” he said.

With recent rains, Swiger says people need to be aware of the breeding cycle for mosquitos and prevent bites if they can.

“One of the things that we do promote is that people dump standing water,” she said. “You want to use repellents as much as possible that you’re comfortable using them when you’re outside because the mosquitoes are gonna bite.”

Manry shared his concerns with current testing for the West Nile virus. He says many people will come down with flu-like symptoms, but hospitals will only be triggered to test for West Nile virus if symptoms include neurological issues. According to the CDC, these symptoms are only seen in about 1 out of every 150 infected people and a majority of people who become infected will be unaware.

The Brazos County Health District has a program to trap and test mosquitos. The cities of Bryan and College Station have mosquito prevention programs for residents.