Photos special to the Miner
Environmental Health Supervisor Rachel Patterson checks for mosquitoes in a trap near the Colorado River.
The Mohave County Department of Public Health sends the mosquitoes to the state lab to check for West Nile virus.
With summer fast approaching, health department surveillance teams check mosquito traps weekly.
Hung on bushes along the Colorado River, traps hold mosquitoes that will be sent to the state laboratory to be tested for signs of the potentially deadly virus.
Every year since it was first diagnosed in New York in 1999, the virus has been showing up in states farther west.
The infectious bug leaves thousands of infected people in its wake and nationwide is responsible for the deaths of 564 people over the last five years, according to the Associated Press.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Web site shows a total of 9,858 mild and severe human West Nile virus cases were reported to the CDC in 2003.
Colorado led the nation with 2,947 cases and 61 deaths.
Although the virus was responsible for 13 human cases and one death in Arizona last year, Mohave County has thus far escaped the wrath of West Nile virus since it was first diagnosed, said Jennifer McNally, the assistant director at the Mohave County Department of Public Health.
"We haven't had any cases in Mohave County since it started," McNally said.
"We don't know why the virus has not shown up in this county when it has shown up in every other county in the state."
Health officials are holding their breath and stepping up testing efforts as summer approaches.
The chance of contracting West Nile virus is greater when mosquitoes are out in full force.
There is no known cure for the virus, which can be transmitted to humans and horses through the bite of a mosquito.
In Arizona, three horses tested positive for West Nile virus in Navajo and Apache counties last year.
The department has been checking certain species of mosquitoes and birds, which also carry the virus, for traces of the infection since April 1.
Officials trap the Mosquitoes along the Colorado River and send them to the Arizona Department of Health Services state lab, where they are separated by species and tested for the virus.
Certain species are more likely to carry the West Nile virus, McNally said.
In previous years testing took place from May through October, but because of higher than usual temperatures, testing started early this year.
So far no species found within the county has tested positive, McNally said.
A surveillance program to test dead birds in Arizona has also been set up.
Crows, ravens, Mourning Doves and Blue Jays that are relatively fresh, not scavenged or decomposed, are sent to the lab for testing.
McNally asks the public to report such birds to county Environmental Health by calling 757-0901.
The county packs birds in dry ice and sends them to the state lab for testing.
McNally advises residents to wear gloves or to use a plastic bag when handling any dead bird.
The health department will not take pigeons or baby birds.
West Nile virus symptoms can range from mild flu-like symptoms to serious infections of the brain such as encephalitis, or meningitis, which affects the spinal cord and the brain's surface.
There is no specific treatment for the virus, but if symptoms develop the person would be hospitalized, McNally said.
Anyone bitten by a mosquito is at risk of contracting the virus, although that risk is low.
"Less than 1 percent of people bitten by a mosquito develop any symptoms of West Nile," she said.
"However people over 50 develop serious symptoms if they are bitten."
People should take precautions to avoid mosquitoes, which are prevalent from now through October.
Since mosquitoes are drawn to water, officials suggest eliminating standing water sources such as pools, birdbaths, buckets, old tires and other containers from yards.
"Even a cup of water can attract mosquitoes," McNally said.
"Change any source of water, even the dog's water dish, at least twice a week to avoid mosquitoes from breeding and laying eggs in the water."
People who spend the day at the river, or a lake, should take precautions to avoid mosquito bites.
McNally suggests that people use an insect repellent with DEET, closely follow instructions for application and spray clothing with repellent.
People should also wear lightweight clothing that covers arms and legs and avoid going outside the hours around dusk and dawn when mosquitoes are most active, she said.
"If possible, it is better to stay inside during those times," she said.
There is a vaccine for West Nile virus available through veterinarians for horses, but as yet, none has been developed for humans, McNally said.KINGMAN – The Kingman Regional Medical Center will present its free annual Kids Day Health and Safety Fair from 10 a.m.
to 2 p.m.
The event takes place at the Del E.
Webb Wellness and Rehabilitation Center and Medical Professional Center behind KRMC on Stockton Hill Road.
More than 30 organizations will share prizes and information.
Children can get vision and hearing tests and immunizations.
Parents are asked to bring children's shots records.
Smokey the Bear and volunteers from the U.S.
Bureau of Land Management and the Arizona Game and Fish Department will teach children about respecting nature and wildlife.
This event also will include gun and electrical safety, spinal and backpack checks, Arizona Department of Public Safety and Guardian Air helicopters, and personnel and equipment from the Kingman Fire Department, Kingman Parks and Recreation Department and UniSource Energy Services.
The Mohave County Department of Public Health will sponsor a car seat and low-back booster seat check.
Car seat technicians and emergency service personnel will assist several volunteers from the health department.
"We want to encourage parents to get their children's safety seats checked," said Robyn Atkins of the health department.
"It is recommended that all children under 80 pounds be in a child's safety seat.
"Don't be a statistic – come get checked," Atkins added.
The event is open to the public and food and drinks are available.