Local West Nile cases tied to neurological diseases

Local West Nile cases tied to neurological diseases

Amarillo, TX - The two West Nile cases reported in Amarillo are being classified as the most rare and severe types.

They're pesky, they're rampant, and now they're causing some local residents serious harm.

Mosquitoes carrying West Nile are in the panhandle and reportedly causing neurological diseases.

"Just in one week we've already had two cases reported in our area of people with the neurological disease caused by West Nile," Dr. Roger Smalligan, Texas Tech University Health Sciences, said.

For Dr. Smalligan, this comes as a concern because this type of West Nile is very rare. He said usually one out of every 100 cases contracts a  neurological disorder. In fact, there were also two cases reported in Lubbock this month as well.

"By neuralgic we mean one of two things," Dr. Smalligan said. "Either they get meningitis, which causes fever headache, stiff neck and they really feel terrible. And then you have the encephalitis form, which is more inflammation of the brain. So the virus causes the brain to kind of swell and get infected and those people will get terrible confusion and talk out of their head and yet they won't necessarily have the stiff neck part of it."

Dr. Smalligan said you can't predict who is going to get the neurological disease, but it's more common in people with weaker immune systems. He said those who end up with neurological diseases can continue dealing with symptoms even after they are better.

"They can have symptoms for months to even some people say they have difficulty thinking straight," Smalligan said. "Some people end up with a little bit of a deficit almost as if they had a stroke. I've seen patients who end up needing a walker to walk after severe neuralgic manifestation of West Nile."

He said the timing for West Nile cases is late in the season, which has experts keeping a closer eye on how long they will stick around.

"We're probably going to see mosquitoes until the first freeze," Austin Voyles, a Potter County Extension Agent for agriculture, said. "There will be a big die off at the first freeze. They will decline as it cools off but we will see populations of them for several weeks to come."

As always, this means residents should eliminate standing water and make sure to have their skin covered at dusk and dawn when mosquitoes are most prevalent.