Arizona leading nation in West Nile virus cases this year

Aug 30, 2019, 5:00 PM | Updated: Aug 31, 2019, 7:53 am

PHOENIX – Metro Phoenix is the epicenter of West Nile virus in the United States in 2019.

Arizona has had 138 probable or confirmed cases of the disease, more than any other state, Jessica Rigler, the state’s assistant director for public health awareness, told KTAR News 92.3 FM on Friday.

All but three of the cases were in Maricopa County, and 10 people have died from the virus.

There were 27 cases and six deaths in all of 2018.

“It’s certainly likely due to increased mosquito activity, which is why it’s so important for people to protect themselves against mosquito bites and to eliminate mosquito breeding areas by dumping any standing water around their yard,” Rigler said.

Rigler said people can protect themselves by wearing long sleeves and pants and using repellent when going outside.

May-October is peak mosquito season in the state, Rigler said, so the risk is expected to persist for a while.

Dr. Cara M. Crist, director of the Arizona Department of Health Services, said on her blog earlier this month that about 20 West Nile Virus cases are usually reported statewide by this time.

Crist said the agency “is working closely with local health departments, vector control agencies and the CDC [U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] to increase our surveillance of these mosquito-borne diseases.”

Arizona’s current monsoon season could lead to more mosquitoes testing positive for the virus, as well as more cases of people being infected by their bites, she said.

The virus can cause fever, headaches, body aches and nausea to more serious things like inflammation of the brain or spinal cord in rare instances. Most people infected by the virus will have no symptoms at all.

There were 2,647 cases and 167 deaths nationwide in 2018, according to the CDC.

KTAR News 92.3 FM’s Griselda Zetino and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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Arizona leading nation in West Nile virus cases this year