FLORENCE – With the arrival of the seasonal rains, puddles, standing water and mosquitoes are never far behind. Pinal County performs routine surveillance to detect the presence of West Nile virus in the mosquito population. So far this year, there have been 13 positive mosquito pools meaning one or more trapped insects tested positive as a carrier of the virus.
“The health risks, while rare, can be quite serious. We urge people to take personal, proactive action to prevent mosquito bites. If you don’t get mosquito bites, you can’t get West Nile virus,” said Public Health Director Tom Schryer. “We can all protect our neighborhoods by eliminating standing water. The simple things really do make a difference.”
There have been no reported human deaths or infections in Pinal County for the summer 2013 season but that could soon change. Maricopa County has just reported a death from West Nile virus involving an elderly woman with underlying health issues.
Public Health officials at the state and local level urge people to take protective measures to avoid mosquito bites and reduce the places mosquitoes live and breed. Here are some ways to “Fight the Bite” by taking proactive steps to avoid mosquitoes and the diseases they may carry:
- Avoid outside activity between dusk and dawn, when mosquitoes are most active.
- If you must be outdoors when mosquitoes are active, wear lightweight clothing that covers your arms and legs and use a mosquito repellent containing an EPA registered active ingredient such as DEET, Picaridin, oil of lemon eucalyptus, PMD or IR 3535. Always follow the directions on the label.
- Make sure doors and windows have tight fitting screens and remain closed. Repair or replace screens that have tears or holes in them.
- Eliminate mosquito-breeding sites around the home by removing standing water in potted plants, tires, bird baths and other containers where water may collect.
- Ensure that swimming pools and decorative water features are properly maintained.
- Change water in flowerpots, birdbaths and pet watering bowls located outdoors at least twice per week.
West Nile virus is transmitted to humans and animals through the bite of an infected mosquito. West Nile virus can cause severe illness in people and horses, although not everyone who is infected will develop symptoms. All ages can be affected; however, people over age 50 and those with weakened immune systems have the highest risk for serious illness.
There were 8 human cases of West Nile virus in Pinal County for 2012, several involving serious complications. Experts who track the West Nile virus say that it comes in cycles with 2006 and 2010 being the worst years on record for human West Nile in Pinal County.
Pinal County Public Health collects and tests mosquitoes from more than 150 trapping locations around the county to identify areas where mosquitoes are carrying the virus.
You can report green pools or suspected mosquito breeding areas on the county website at https://services.pinalcountyaz.gov/Default.aspx. Look for the green section on the left that says “Report.”
What Are the Symptoms of West Nile Virus?
No Symptoms in Most People. Approximately 80 percent of people (about 4 out of 5) who are infected with West Nile will not show any symptoms at all.
Milder Symptoms in Some People. Up to 20 percent of the people who become infected have symptoms such as fever, headache, and body aches, nausea, vomiting and sometimes swollen lymph glands or a skin rash on the chest, stomach and back. Symptoms can last for as short as a few days, though even healthy people have become sick for several weeks.
Serious Symptoms in a Few People. About one in 150 people infected with West Nile will develop severe illness. The severe symptoms can include high fever, headache, neck stiffness, stupor, disorientation, coma, tremors, convulsions, muscle weakness, vision loss, numbness and paralysis. These symptoms may last several weeks, and neurological effects may be permanent.