September 6, 2012

West Nile Virus Update


The blood supply remains safe during what health officials say is the worst year ever for West Nile virus in Texas. Gulf Coast Regional Blood Center has been testing for West Nile virus since 2003; it is one of 14 tests that The Blood Center performs on every donation.

According to the CDC, about 80 percent of people who are infected with West Nile virus do not show any symptoms. The Blood Center uses highly sensitive nucleic acid testing to test for West Nile virus, which detects the virus even if the individual shows no symptoms.

When a positive result is detected, the donation is appropriately discarded, the donor is notified and the state and applicable county are notified about the positive test result.

Within the 26 Texas counties served by The Blood Center, a total of 18 donations have tested positive for West Nile virus since June 15, 2012. There is no risk to donate blood, and none of the donations that tested positive for the virus were added to the community blood supply. However, individuals should not donate blood in order to receive a West Nile virus test. If you suspect you have the virus, contact your doctor.

The Harris County Public Health and Environmental Services department offers these tips to protect yourself from West Nile virus:

  1. Stay indoors at dusk and dawn. These are the times that mosquitoes are most active.
  2. Dress in long sleeves/pants, loose and light-colored clothing when outdoors.
  3. Defend yourself from mosquitoes by using an insect repellant that contains DEET, Picaridin or Oil of Lemon Eucalyptus. Follow label instructions.
  4. Drain standing water in your yard. Also make sure that flower pots, water dishes, bird baths and wading pools are properly drained so they are not breeding grounds for mosquitoes.

For more information about West Nile virus, please visit www.cdc.gov/westnile and www.hcphes.org

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