An explosion of West Nile virus cases in Texas sparked a warning from the Centers for Disease Control that this year is one of the worst for the disease.
But in Arizona - and in Maricopa County, in particular – health officials said there has not been a jump from previous years.
Since the start of the year, there have been 22 human cases reported in Maricopa County, according to the Department of Public Health. Zero cases have been reported since the week ending Aug. 4. Last year, at this same time, there were 17 human cases of the disease.
One fatality – an elderly East Valley man - was reported in July.
The state – which gets its numbers from the counties – only has 16 cases so far on the books. Some county figures are still being added, including a few more from Maricopa County.
West Nile virus is a disease that is transmitted from sick birds to mosquitoes to humans through bites. In most cases, humans who are infected feel no symptoms or mild flu-like symptoms.
In rare instances, the disease can lead to swelling of the brain and even death.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, there have been 1,118 cases nationally this year, with 41 deaths. Nearly half of the cases – 537 – have been reported in Texas.
Typically, the country sees about 300 cases by this time each year, according to the CDC.
“Who knows what’s around the corner, especially with the storms we’ve been having,” said Jeanene Fowler, spokeswoman for the Maricopa County Department of Public Health. “It’s hard to predict.”
The best way to avoid the disease is to avoid getting bitten. The health department reminds residents to remove standing water from around the home since that provides a prime breeding spot for mosquitoes. Buckets, children’s toys, even cups left out overnight should be emptied and removed from areas where they can accumulate water during storms.
This is especially important in recent days with all the rain the Valley has seen.
Residents can also protect themselves by limiting time outdoors from sunset to sunrise – when mosquitoes are feeding - or by wearing bug repellant.
Maricopa County conducts mosquito spraying in areas where high numbers of mosquitoes have been caught in local traps or when a caught mosquito tests positive for West Nile virus.
For information about the program, call (602) 506-0700 or see www.maricopa.gov/wnv/.
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