Dry conditions kept mosquitoes mostly at bay this summer, but with recent rains and cooler weather there has been an uptick in mosquito breeding, said Dr. Desmar Walkes, Austin-Travis County health authority, in a news release.

Officials reported that an Austin resident died in September of the mosquito-borne virus West Nile Virus, marking the first death of the year from it in the county.

The specifics

According to the release, the Environmental Health Services Division has identified 26 positive pools of mosquitoes carrying the virus this year in ZIP codes 78702, 78703, 78704, 78721, 78722, 78723, 78727, 78741, 78751, 78754, 78757 and 78759.

The virus was also detected in mosquito populations tested in Williamson County.

While mosquitoes are present year-round in Central Texas, populations are at their largest and most active between May and November.

Austin Public Health officials said that West Nile Virus is spread through mosquito bites, not through coughing, sneezing, or touching infected people or animals. Common symptoms include:
  • Headaches
  • Body aches
  • Joint pain
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Rashes
APH officials said that there is no vaccine or antiviral medication for treating the virus, so affected individuals will best recuperate through rest, staying hydrated and using over-the-counter pain relievers for symptoms.

Officials also added that about 1 in 150 people develop severe illness from the virus that requires hospitalization. Per the release, people over the age of 60; those with medical conditions, such as cancer, diabetes, hypertension or kidney disease; and immunocompromised individuals, such as organ transplant recipients, are at a greater risk.

Going forward

In 2022, there was one case of West Nile Virus reported in the county, but no deaths. Based on trends, officials said, it is possible that there will be additional cases this season.

“We are late in the mosquito season, but additional rains may cause an increase in the mosquito population,” officials said. “More people may be venturing out and enjoying cooler temperatures. This can increase their exposure risk.”

The department outlined four ways the community can protect themselves from the virus:
  • Drain standing water in outdoor toys, tires, trash cans, buckets, rain gutters and plant pots, as mosquitoes can breed in as little as one teaspoon of water.
  • Be cautious when outdoors between dusk and dawn, as the culex mosquito that spreads the virus is most active during this time.
  • Wear light-colored, loose-fitting pants and long sleeves when outside.
  • Use an EPA-registered insect repellent containing DEET, picaridin or IR3535, and apply on both exposed skin and clothing.