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West Nile Virus has Found its Way to Maricopa County

Positive Samples Have Doubled Since Last Year

Record rainfalls and heat waves in early summer created the perfect conditions for West Nile Virus (WNV) to thrive in Arizona this year. The Maricopa County Department of Public Health (MCDPH) has collected 71 positive samples of mosquitoes carrying the virus, which is double the amount found last year.

The Arizona Republic reports that there have been 17 human infections and two deaths between June 21 and July 17. Last year’s epidemic was among the worst since the virus was first discovered in Arizona in 2003 with 93 infections and 12 deaths. The majority of cases have occurred in Maricopa County.

Symptoms of West Nile Virus

Culex mosquitoes, commonly found throughout Phoenix and Tucson, are the main carriers of WNV. The population skyrockets when heavy rains fall between May and October. Humans and horses are most susceptible to infected bites although birds and livestock can also contract the virus. The disease is not spread by contact and does not affect common household pets, such as cats and dogs.

Only 1 in 5 people develop symptoms, which mimic the common flu’s high fever, body and headaches, swollen glands and weakened muscles. The incubation period ranges from three to 15 days, and the illness lasts several days to weeks. Cases are more frequent and severe among the young and elderly with the most serious cases leading to disorientation, seizures, paralysis or death.

Tips to Protect Your Family from WNV

The Arizona Department of Health Services (ADHS) expects the mosquito activity to increase as the state weathers through the summer monsoon season. While veterinarians have access to a WNV vaccine for horses, human antibiotics are still under development. The Maricopa County Environmental Services Department uses fogging to control the mosquito population but reminds residents that “everyone is responsible for eliminating and preventing mosquito breeding on their property.”

Here are our five tips for protecting your home in Phoenix and Tucson this summer:

  • Used since the 1950s, mosquito repellents are highly effective at deterring bites. Alternatives to DEET include lemon eucalyptus oil, picaridin and IR3535.
  • Frequently inspect outdoor faucets and pipes for leaks as well as door and window screens for tears.
  • Regularly look around your yard for containers, lawn decorations and uneven dips in the ground that are holding stagnant water, which is where mosquitoes lay their eggs. Water features, such as birdbaths, ponds and pools, should be cleaned at least once each week.
  • Wear lightweight pants and long-sleeve shirts when near stagnant water and between dusk and dawn when mosquitoes are most likely to bite.

At Burns Pest Elimination, we know how to keep mosquitoes at bay. Contact us to help regain control over a mosquito infestation.

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