Back in July, Arizona’s first case of West Nile virus was confirmed in Maricopa County. Unfortunately, the disease hasn’t stopped there. We’re continuing to see an increase in mosquito-borne illnesses statewide. So far this year, 46 cases of West Nile virus and 12 cases of Saint Louis encephalitis (another virus spread by the same mosquito that causes West Nile) have been confirmed in Arizona. We expect to see even more cases of these diseases through the fall. Maricopa County sent out a news release Thursday about this topic.
West Nile virus causes symptoms in about 20% of infected people, which can range from fever, headaches, and body aches, to more serious things like inflammation of the brain or spinal cord in rare cases. For Saint Louis encephalitis, only 1% of infected people ever develop symptoms – typically fever, tiredness, headaches, dizziness and nausea.
To protect yourself from getting sick, it’s important to avoid mosquitos by wearing insect repellent, making sure your screens are intact if you’re leaving your doors and windows open, and wearing long sleeves and pants if you’re going to be outside. In Arizona, disease-causing mosquitos can bite all day and all night, so you need to stay protected at all times.
We’re working with local health departments and the CDC to increase our surveillance of mosquito-borne diseases in both mosquitoes and people so we can continue to provide specific prevention messages to Arizonans and keep healthcare providers in the state up to date.