Monday, January 14, 2013
Plano residents still concerned about West Nile Virus in lieu of mild winter
Some think the city has not done enough to control the mosquito population.
PLANO Several months after the last case of West Nile virus was reported in Plano, the potentially deadly virus is still on the minds of some residents.
Judy Gibson, a retired school teacher who lives near Davis Elementary, was one of dozens of Plano residents who contracted the virus this past summer. She said it took doctors in West Texas, where she had gone to stay with her family since she was ill, more than two months to accurately diagnose her disease.
When it was all said and done, Gibson stayed in seven different hospitals over three months, receiving treatment for almost everything except West Nile Virus.
"They put me on three different medications for cholesterol, three different medications for high blood pressure and two for diabetes. My blood sugar was down to 45, and I lost weight and was down to 92 pounds," Gibson said. "I came within inches of dying, but I am getting better. I am lucky that it wasn't worse."
Another woman in Gibson's neighborhood contracted the disease and remains paralyzed from the neck down, and another man who lives nearby is still suffering the effects of the disease and is confined to a wheelchair.
Gibson said she was alarmed late last month when she saw a swarm of mosquitoes in her front yard, believing that they would have been killed by the cold weather. She said the sight of the mosquitoes was frustrating since she doesn't believe the city of Plano has done enough to kill mosquitoes in her neighborhood.
During the summer months the city actively sought out areas that harbored mosquitoes and used a variety of techniques to kill them, said Geoffrey Heinicke, the city's environmental health manager. However, the city has stopped treating areas since cold temperatures suppress the numbers of living mosquitoes, he said.
"We haven't received any reports of West Nile virus since August or September," Heinicke said. "We have used larvicide briquettes in pools of water that kill larva for 90 to 120 days, and we also did the spraying to kill adult mosquitoes."
Heinicke said while mosquitoes may still be present in smaller numbers throughout the city, it is important to remember that mosquitoes are not born with the virus. To become infected, they first must bite a bird that carries the disease, typically a crow or blue jay. With many crows and blue jays having already migrated south for the winter, mosquitoes are unlikely to pick it up, he said.
As a precaution, Heinicke said, eliminating areas that have standing water will help keep the number of mosquitoes down.
As the numbers of mosquitoes dwindles, Gibson said she still doesn't know what her future holds.
"I still have a lot of questions," she said. "Am I now immune to this, or can I get it again? If I am immune, how long does it last? There is not enough written about what happens after you catch the disease. It is frustrating."
For information about West Nile in the city of Plano, call the city's West Nile hotline at 972-941-7143.
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