DALLAS - Dallas County health officials are sounding the alarm: the threat of getting the West Nile virus this summer is great.
In a news conference Wednesday, they reported someone living in Richardson has become the first person to test positive for the disease in Dallas County this year.
Health officials said this is also the earliest in the year mosquitoes have tested positive for the virus. 17 samples taken from all over the county have tested positive so far.
Mosquitoes infected with West Nile spread it to humans when they bite. Mild symptoms are flu-like, but severe neurological symptoms can turn deadly.
Dr. Don Read, a West Nile survivor, told the media Wednesday he nearly died from the virus because his symptoms were so severe. He said his legs became paralyzed, he couldn't talk, hear or write.
He said he spent months rehabilitating to re-learn all of those skills.
Health officials said they believe the mild winter contributed to a larger mosquito population than normal this spring, but they say they still can't explain why there's a surge in West Nile.
The most important message health officials want to get out is the importance of protecting yourself. They said dawn and dusk are the worst times to be outside. When you do go out, wear long sleeves and mosquito repellent.
Dallas County is spraying insecticide in areas where mosquitoes have tested positive for West Nile. They sprayed in South Dallas last week. Wednesday night, crews will be spraying in Highland Park.