Arizona hotbed for West Nile Virus

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by Sybil Hoffman

azfamily.com

Posted on August 31, 2012 at 10:30 PM

Updated Friday, Aug 31 at 10:40 PM

PHOENIX -- The West Nile Virus has already claimed more than a dozen lives in Texas. Add Hurricane
Isaac into the mix and health officials are growing more and more concerned.

So could Arizona be at risk for a similar outbreak?

Year after year, Arizona ranks as a hotbed for West Nile Virus.

"Because we have higher numbers of cases compared to the rest of the country, we're always thinking West Nile Virus during the summer and fall and we're always ramping up our activities," said Cara Christ with the Arizona Department of Health Services.

"The mosquitoes that can transmit the West Nile Virus are the ones that are the mosquitoes that are active from dawn to dusk. So of course that's when most Arizonans are going to be out. The more opportunities you give to get bitten, the more likely you are to get West Nile Virus," explained Christ.

While the height of the mosquito season is considered August and September, the Centers
for Disease Control and Prevention believes this summer will be recording setting. In the past two weeks, the number of West Nile cases in Texas alone has doubled.

Seventy percent of the reported cases are from six states.

"When there's an outbreak that's going on nationally, it always brings that disease to the forefront," Christ stated.

Which is why the Arizona Department of Health Services is on guard, nervous the vicious virus will suddenly spike here.

"we've been waiting for it, we just haven't had it like the other states have," Christ pointed out.

Because it looks like a regular mosquito bite, knowing whether or not you have actually contracted West Nile is tricky.

Christ provided some signs to look for.

"A loved one stops eating and drinking, seems confused, has mental changes, not able to walk down the hall straight so they're not functioning to their normal self. If they start to have severe headaches, pain when they move their neck so those types of things, that's when you want to see a health care provider immediately," Christ said.

The best advice, just avoid getting bitten.

"There's not precautions you can take to avoid getting it and there's not anything you can do to prevent it once you've been bitten," added Christ. 

Federal and State Health Officials aren't sure what caused the outbreak this summer and why Texas was especially hit hard.
 

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