Harris County Public Health authorities say a mosquito caught somewhere just west of downtown Houston earlier this week tested positive for the West Nile virus.
The mosquito was caught in one of several traps set out by the department in the 77007 ZIP code, which includes Washington Avenue, Rice Military, Sawyer Heights, Memorial Park and the north side of Buffalo Bayou. The ZIP code also includes some neighborhoods just north of Interstate 10 in the Heights.
It is the first mosquito to test positive for the virus so far in 2019. No cases of West Nile have been confirmed in any person in Harris County, According to department spokesperson Elizabeth Perez.
Most people infected with West Nile do not develop any symptoms, but roughly one in five develops a fever with other symptoms such as headache, aches, joint pain, vomiting, diarrhea or rash. In rare cases, people can die from West Nile virus, including one Harris County man in 2018.
Because of how the mosquitoes are trapped and recovered by department workers, Perez was unable to pinpoint exactly where and when within the ZIP code the mosquito was found. Since a mosquito tested positive, crews soon begin abatement procedures, Perez said.
The public can protect themselves from mosquitoes by using an EPA-certified insect repellent, Perez said. Unlike sunscreen, which in some cases can be applied once for an entire outing, Perez said anyone who uses insect repellent or bug spray must routinely re-apply it for it to be effective.
The EPA also suggests using a mixture of lemon and eucalyptus oil as an alternative insect repellent, Perez said.
Residents can also help stop mosquitoes from breeding by removing standing water from their property. She said even a small bottle cap filled with water can be a breeding ground for mosquitoes.
Litter and other debris are particularly problematic, she said.
"That stuff can hold water," Perez said. "The longer it goes, the more potential mosquitoes have to breed."
Anyone who spots a swath of mosquitoes and wants them to be tested is urged to reach out to Harris County Public Health by visiting their website.
Jay R. Jordan covers breaking news in the Houston area. Read him on our breaking news site, Chron.com, and our subscriber site, HoustonChronicle.com | Follow him on Twitter at @JayRJordan | Email him at email@example.com | Text CHRON to 77453 to receive breaking news alerts by text message