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Mon, Jan. 20

County prepares for West Nile

KINGMAN - Mosquito trapping efforts have begun in Mohave Valley and along the Colorado River by the Mohave County Department of Public Health.

"Those are the areas where we typically find the first mosquitoes that test positive for West Nile virus," said Christy Bronston, MCDPH nursing director.

A May 4 news release from the Arizona Department of Health Services reports mosquito samples collected April 26 near Clarkdale in Yavapai County tested positive for the virus and are the first this year in the state.

"Mosquitoes are breeding earlier this year because of warm weather and recent rains," Craig Levy, director of the ADHS Vector-Borne and Zoonotic Diseases section, stated in the release. "While we can't predict how severe the West Nile season will be this year, Arizonans should begin taking steps to protect themselves against mosquito bites."

Presence of the virus in humans is confirmed through blood tests. Two cases were confirmed in Mohave County last year with both victims recovering, Bronston said.

About 80 percent of people infected with West Nile virus show no symptoms. Symptoms among those who do include moderate fever, headaches, nausea, body aches, swollen lymph glands and pass within a few days in a person in reasonably good health, Bronston said.

People with weakened immune systems may show more serious symptoms that include high fever, stiff neck, disorientation, convulsions and coma, possibly leading to death. "There is no specific treatment for West Nile virus," Bronston said.

"Supportive care is the best that can be offered by physicians determining what is necessary in each case. However, prevention is the best approach."

Mosquitoes feeding on infected birds transmit the virus through bites to humans and animals.

More than 650 state residents have been infected with West Nile virus since it first appeared in Arizona in 2003, the ADHS release states. There have been 35 deaths from the virus, including 11 last year.

Mosquito numbers around homes and neighborhoods can be reduced by:

• Eliminating standing water where they breed such as in old tires, cans, bottles, jars and drums.

• Changing water twice weekly in birdbaths, flower vases, planters and animal watering pans.

• Repairing leaky pipes and outside faucets and frequently moving air conditioner drain hoses.

• Application of insect repellent containing DEET when outdoors.

• Wearing light clothing that covers the arms and legs, particularly around dawn and dusk when mosquitoes are most active.

"I'm not expecting anything different from last year," Bronston said. "Certainly an increase in mosquito numbers could lead to more cases, but I do not suspect that at this point."

The state Health Department also issued an advisory May 11 warning consumers to avoid eating raw oysters from Puerto Penasco, Mexico. The area is better known as Rocky Point, and 13 cases of hepatitis A among American visitors who ate raw oysters there have been identified.

There were 11 cases identified in Maricopa County, and one each in Pima and Yuma counties. All victims reported traveling to Rocky Point between March 8 and March 25.

"We haven't seen any problems in Mohave County," Bronston said. "But it's always a good idea to cook foods thoroughly before consuming them. Uncooked shellfish is typically where the virus is found."

Illness associated with consumptions of raw oysters also has been reported in California, Florida, Texas, Louisiana and Alabama.

Symptoms of hepatitis A infection include fever, fatigue, loss of appetite, nausea or abdominal discomfort, which may be followed by jaundice in a few days. The illness is rarely fatal.

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