West Nile virus found in Arizona mosquito samples

Mosquito samples collected by Maricopa County health officials in the Maricopa County, Arizona have tested positive for the West Nile virus, marking the arrival of the virus in the state in 2004.

“We knew it was a matter of when, not if, we would see West Nile this year,” said Catherine Eden, Director of the Arizona Department of Health Services. “This tells us that our surveillance is working and makes it more important than ever that people take precautions to prevent mosquito breeding around their homes.”

Eden said the appearance of the West Nile virus should prompt residents to take precautions, but not to overreact.

“The chance that any one person is going to become ill from a mosquito bite is extremely low. Most people do not become ill, and for those who do, most suffer only a mild flu-like illness for a few days before they recover. The symptoms may be so mild that most don’t even know they were infected,” Eden said

The Arizona State Health Laboratory confirmed the two positive mosquito pools in Maricopa County.

Last week, Gov. Janet Napolitano encouraged all Arizona residents to “fight the bite,” and unveiled a Web site and television and radio public service announcements that highlight measures Arizonans can take to reduce their exposure to mosquitoes. The Governor also authorized $100,000 in emergency health funds for mosquito abatement efforts across the state.

The state also has established a web site, www.westnileaz.com, and a toll-free number, 1-800-314-9243, to provide information about West Nile Virus

The best way to protect yourself from mosquito-borne illness is to reduce the number of mosquitoes around your home and neighborhood and to take personal precautions to avoid mosquito bites, such as: 

  • Eliminate standing water where mosquitoes can breed. Check for items outside the home that collect water, such as cans, bottles, jars, buckets, old tires, drums and other containers. 
  • Change water in flower vases, birdbaths, planters and animal watering pans at least twice a week. 
  • Repair leaky pipes and outside faucets, and move air conditioner drain hoses frequently. 
  • Avoid being bitten by mosquitoes when going outside at night by using insect repellent. Wear lightweight clothing that covers the arms and legs. 

Local health departments are accepting dead birds for testing of West Nile virus if they meet certain conditions. Not all dead birds are eligible or will be accepted for testing.

The Arizona Department of Agriculture also is urging equine owners to vaccinate their horses against West Nile. For more information, contact the Agriculture Department at (602) 542-0982

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