Three cases of West Nile virus were confirmed in June, and the impending heat and humidity that accompanies Arizona's monsoon has county health officials on the watch.
The three cases have tipped off the 2013 West Nile season, according to the Maricopa County Department of Public Health and the Arizona Department of Health. All three cases had West Nile encephalitis, the most serious form of the disease, but all three patients were expected to survive, officials said.
"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," said Dr. Bob England, director of Maricopa County Department of Public Health. "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."
Maricopa County had 88 lab-confirmed cases in 2012, said health officials. In 2011, there were 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, officials said.
Public health officials recommend applying insect repellent following label instructions (CDC recommends repellant containing DEET, Picaridin, Oil of Lemon Eucalyptus or PMD or IR3535), wearing long clothing and limiting outdoor activity after dusk and before dawn.
Also, residents should make a special effort to mosquito-proof their home by taking the following precautions:
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 occurring three to 15 days after the mosquito bite, health officials said.
Symptoms may include fever, headache, body aches, nausea, vomiting, swollen lymph glands and skin rash on the chest, stomach and back. A small percentage of people who are infected with WNV, like the first reported case this year, will experience severe symptoms such as meningitis, encephalitis, paralysis and even death, the officials said.
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.
For more information on West Nile virus, public health assistance, to report green pools or file any mosquito related complaint, and for WNV materials or presentations for your group/organization, call 602-506-0700 or visit www.maricopa.gov/wnv.
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