The first human summer 2013 cases of West Nile virus have been confirmed. The three cases were reported by the Maricopa County Department of Public Health and the Arizona Department of health Services.
All three cases were discovered in June to have West Nile encephalitis, the most serious form of the disease. They are are expected to survive.
West Nile virus is passed 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.
In a few rare cases, humans can become extremely ill.
“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, 45 lab confirmed cases. In 2010, Maricopa County recorded its second worst West Nile virus season with 115 lab confirmed cases.
The worst season in Maricopa County was in 2004 with 355 confirmed cases and 14 deaths.
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 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.
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:
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.
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.