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July 31, 2012

Physician issues warnings on West Nile virus

GREENVILLE — Frightening statistics have been released in recent days concerning the extent of the West Nile virus in North Texas.

One local physician believes the numbers are only telling part of the story.

“The West Nile at this moment is much, much worse than is being publicized,” said Dr. James Nicholson with Primary Care Associates in Greenville. “I have had a case in my practice, a lady here in town. She got transferred over to Dallas, so it is here.”

Nicholson said he became concerned about the extent of the disease after speaking with a top nephrologist in Dallas over the weekend.

“He’s an outdoorsman, like I am,” Nicholson said.

While there have been reports about the numbers of deaths related to the West Nile virus, little has been said of those who have suffered severe symptoms from being exposed to the disease after being bitten by mosquitoes.

The Texas Department of State Health Services reports that most people infected with West Nile virus will not have any signs of illness, while 20 percent of people who become infected will have mild symptoms such as fever, headache, body aches and occasionally a skin rash on the trunk of the body and swollen lymph glands.

However, the symptoms of severe infection (West Nile encephalitis or meningitis) include headache, high fever, neck stiffness, stupor, disorientation, coma, tremors, convulsions, muscle weakness and paralysis.

Although only about one out of 150 people infected with West Nile virus usually develops the severe form of the disease, Nicholson said one hospital in Garland has reported a surge in the number of recent severe cases.

“They have five people at this moment on ventilators,” Nicholson said. “They have about the same number who are paralyzed to some extent that do not have to be on ventilators. That is scary. That is a short distance as the mosquito flies. It is here and the statistics have not caught up with the facts yet.”

Nicholson recommends that local residents take steps to reduce their risk of contracting the virus, including the use of a permanent repellent spray.

“Just soak anything and everything around your house,” Nicholson said.

Other tips to follow include:

— Use an insect repellent containing DEET when going outdoors and stay indoors at dusk and dawn, when mosquitoes are most active.

— Get rid of any standing water, change the water in bird baths as well as remove old tires or anything which can collect water.

— Residents who wish to request the city to spray their area can contact the Parks and Recreation Department at 903-457-2994.

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