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Phoenix-area West Nile virus cases have passed 2018 mark

(Getty Images/Joe Raedle)

PHOENIX – Only halfway through this year’s mosquito season, Maricopa County has already surpassed the number of confirmed West Nile virus cases that it had all of last year.

Statistics at the county’s public health section showed that 27 cases have been recorded. There were 24 such cases in 2018.

Arizona had 391 confirmed cases in 2004, the Centers for Disease Control reported.

A spokesman for the Maricopa County Environmental Services Department said the number of mosquito traps testing positive for West Nile virus had increased by more than 200.

As of Monday, there were 335 positive samples; last year there were 138.

“We’ve identified thousands of problem areas in terms of mosquito breeding or potential breeding,” Johnny Dilone with the environmental services agency told KTAR News 92.3 FM on Monday.

Mosquito season runs from late April through October. The insects most likely to be carrying the virus are especially active at dawn and at dusk.

“We try to be ahead of the game,” Dilone said, setting up over 800 mosquito traps a week and monitoring problem areas.

The department is also complaint-driven. “If we learn from the public about other areas where they may be having a problem with adult mosquitoes, we go and monitor those areas, as well,” Dilone said.

According to the Arizona Department of Health Services, most people infected with the virus either don’t exhibit symptoms or only get a bit sick.

There have been fatalities – about 1 out of 150 develop severe illness and 1 of 10 of those die.

Symptoms are flu-like: fever, head and body aches, weakness, nausea, joint paint and swollen glands that could last anywhere from a few days to a few weeks.

The worst – and rarest – symptoms include convulsions and paralysis. Some have lapsed into comas.

There isn’t a specific treatment for West Nile virus. Doctors generally advise rest, fluids and over-the-counter pain relievers.

Preventing mosquito bites boils down to a few things. County health officials recommended using insect repellent; wearing light-colored clothing and keeping your arms and legs covered; and getting rid of standing water in your yard.

“Anything that could collect water,” Dilone said, can become a breeding ground for mosquitoes. “Even something as small as the cap of a water bottle.”

KTAR News 92.3 FM’s Ashley Flood contributed to this report.

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