First cases of West Nile Virus this summer

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By Catherine Holland By Catherine Holland

PHOENIX – Summer in Arizona means more than high temperatures and monsoon moisture. It also means mosquitoes, and the first cases of the West Nile Virus.

The Maricopa County Department of Public Health and Arizona Department of Health Services have confirmed three cases of West Nile Virus in the month of June, tipping off the beginning of the 2013 season.  All three patients had West Nile encephalitis, the most serious form of the disease. The patients are all expected to survive.

“We know when we confirm the encephalitis or meningitis form of the disease that there are many more people who have contracted the milder form of the illness. Don’t be deceived by hearing about only a few cases so far. There’s plenty of it out there, like there is every year.” said Dr. Bob England, director of Maricopa County Department of Public Health.

In 2012, Maricopa County had 88 lab-confirmed cases. In 2011, the county saw 45 lab-confirmed cases. In 2010, Maricopa County recorded its second worst West Nile virus season with 115 lab confirmed cases. (The worst season was in 2004 with 355 confirmed cases and 14 deaths.)

Public health officials recommend applying insect repellent following label instructions (CDC recommends repellent containing DEET, Picaridin, Oil of Lemon Eucalyptus or PMD, or IR3535), wearing long clothing, and limiting outdoor activity after dusk and before dawn.

Residents are advised to make a special effort to mosquito-proof their home by taking the following precautions:
-Eliminate mosquito-breeding sites around your property.
-Drain standing water in potted plants, tires and other containers.
-Install or repair window and door screens to keep mosquitoes out of the home.
-Keep fountains, animal troughs and swimming pools properly operating and free from debris.

West Nile Virus (WNV)  is transmitted to humans by the bite of an infected mosquito. Approximately 20 percent of people infected with the virus will feel flu-like symptoms three to 15 days after the mosquito bite.

Symptoms may include fever, headache, body aches, nausea, vomiting, swollen lymph glands, and skin rash on the chest, stomach and back. A small percentage those infected with WNV, like this first reported case this year, will experience severe symptoms, such as meningitis, encephalitis, paralysis, and even death.

People over the age of 50 are generally at a higher risk for severe symptoms. If a person thinks he or she has WNV symptoms, he or she should consult their health care provider.

Health officials say Valley residents should be aware that although the majority of people who become infected with the virus will show no symptoms at all, for a small percentage of people it can be serious or even fatal.

For more information on West Nile Virus, public health assistance, to report green pools or file any mosquito related complaint, call (602) 506-0700 or visit