West Nile researcher looks at virus by the numbers

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by JANET ST. JAMES

WFAA

Posted on August 3, 2012 at 6:26 AM

DALLAS - Dallas County epidemiologist Dr. Wendy Chung is tracking West Nile virus like no other in North Texas, crunching the numbers to learn more about who is most affected by the virus.

Of the confirmed Dallas County cases, only three are under the age of 18; the youngest eight years old, the oldest is 93.

"So right now, two-thirds of our cases are over the age of 50, said Dr. Chung, who pointed out most of the cases live north of Interstate 30.

Of the hospitalized patients, 33 percent have been admitted to the intensive care unit. 78 percent of the serious illnesses are male. 61 percent of the cases are Caucasian, 25 percent Hispanic, and three percent Black, though evidence shows mosquitoes don't discriminate. Bodies, once bitten, also don't react differently based on race.

"I really don't think it has to do with predisposition, if that's what you're alluding to," Dr. Chung said. "I think it has to do with the geography that happens to be impacted, and who happens to be living there."

From all this information comes a warning to a certain group of North Texans, according to Chung.

"Persons with immunosuppression and elderly persons with underlying medical conditions are particularly advised at this time of peak West Nile activity in our community to avoid outside activities during the dawn and dusk hours, unless they absolutely have to," Chung said. "And if they have to, they should wear long sleeves and pants and wear insect repellent."

Chung said most concerning is the 70 percent of the patients they've interviewed admitted they never use insect repellent. Only 5 people who've tested positive in Dallas County said they used bug spray all the time.

E-mail jstjames@wfaa.com

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