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  • County's first West Nile Virus case confirmed

    Aug 19, 2015 | Read More News
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    Health Department officials have confirmed that West Nile Virus (WNV) may have contributed to the death of a Tucson area elderly woman. The woman, who had also been suffering from other health complications, passed away earlier this month and the Pima County Health Department and Arizona Department of Health Services completed their investigation of the case on Wednesday. This case is also the first case of WNV confirmed in Pima County.

    “While we cannot know with certainty that WNV led to this person’s death, we do know that WNV can be a serious problem for people who already have compromised health,” says Dr. Francisco Garcia, Director of the Pima County Health Department. “Everyone should make sure to protect themselves and their homes to reduce the risk of being bitten by mosquitoes, especially those with weakened immune systems due to illness or age.” 

    Most people infected with WNV never experience any symptoms or have a mild illness that goes away on its own. However, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 1 out of 150 people who become ill with WNV will develop more serious disease such as meningitis or encephalitis that may require hospitalization. People over 60 years of age are at the greatest risk for severe disease, along with certain medical conditions, such as cancer, diabetes, hypertension, kidney disease, and people who have received organ transplants, are also at greater risk for serious illness.

    West Nile Virus can be transmitted to animals and humans through the bite of a mosquito who has previously bitten a WNV infected bird.  Symptoms of WNV usually start 3 to 14 days after being bitten by an infected mosquito and may include fever, headache, tiredness, body aches, a skin rash on the trunk of the body, and/or swelling of the lymph nodes.

    In order to monitor mosquito activity in our community, the Health Department conducts trapping of mosquitoes all over our County to track the specific type of mosquito that carries WNV and conduct testing to see if the mosquitoes are carrying WNV. PCHD also works with other municipalities to test their collected mosquitoes for the virus. PCHD staff provides inspection and treatment of standing water issues and complaints within the County. “There are places we always know will have standing water after heavy rains, like certain drainage basins and washes,” explained Garcia. “Our staff also goes out to areas reported to us through our standing water complaint line to inspect and work with the property owner to remedy standing water and green pool issues to prevent mosquito breeding.”

     One other important aspect of PCHD’s prevention efforts is the investigation and surveillance performed by the Epidemiology Program. Doctors and laboratories are required to report positive tests results to the Health Department. These cases are investigated by PCHD disease investigators to confirm that the person had the virus and to identify any trends or connections in the development of cases in the community.

    Since there is no specific treatment or vaccine for WNV, preventing mosquito bites is the best way to prevent WNV and other diseases carried by mosquitoes. Regardless of the hot and normally dry temperatures, mosquitoes are active day and night throughout the year. Here are some easy to take preventative steps:

    • Keep mosquitoes off your body. Wear loose-fitting, light-colored clothing. If you are not wearing long-sleeved pants and shirts, use insect repellent on exposed skin.
    • Keep mosquitoes out of your yard. Walk through your yard and check for areas that collect water. Standing water is the ideal place for mosquitoes to breed, so change outdoor pet water daily and replace with fresh water and make sure things like plant containers, tires, or other items are not collecting water.
    • Keep mosquitoes out of your house. If you want the fresh air in the evening, feel free to open your windows, but check your window screens for holes and repair immediately. Do not leave doors open if you do not have a screen door to act as a mosquito barrier.
    • Report mosquito breeding problems such as green pools or standing water in your neighborhood to the Health Department by calling (520) 243-7999.

    To submit a standing water complaint call (520) 243-7999 or visit www.pima.gov/mosquito