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Wed, Dec. 11

Editorial<br><br>Prepare now for the arrival of the West Nile virus locally<br>

Humans may contract West Nile virus primarily through mosquito bites. Persons over the age of 50 are at higher risk for serious illness. Most people exhibit no symptoms; however, in mild cases of West Nile, symptoms — including a slight fever and/or headache — may appear 2-15 days after a mosquito bite. High fever, headache, confusion, muscle aches and weakness mark more severe infections — including encephalitis. Very severe infections can be fatal. There is no specific treatment for West Nile virus other than supportive care, and there is no vaccine available for humans.

The CDHS will begin aggressive surveillance for the West Nile virus next month, said Coconino County Environmental Health Program Manager Marlene Gaither. The county will once again monitor a sentinel flock of chickens. The CDHS will offer mosquito-eating fish to residents to be placed in ponds that do not overflow since the fish are a non-native species. Four to five fish per pond will be provided while supplies last. The fish will be available when temperatures begin to rise, said Gaither.

The CDHS will actively monitor horses, chickens, dead wild birds and mosquitoes for the presence of the West Nile virus. Starting next month, citizens can assist by reporting dead wild birds to the CDHS. Citizens should avoid contact with the dead bird. The CDHS will also investigate physicians’ reports of encephalitis and meningitis as part of a statewide surveillance for human cases of the West Nile virus.

Gaither urges those who own horses to have the animals vaccinated against the West Nile virus. The vaccine — administered with two separate shots — is not protect the horse from the virus until six weeks from the first vaccination. Canyon Pet Hospital’s mobile clinic is in Williams every Tuesday at Canyon Feed & Supply, 614 N. Grand Canyon Blvd. The mobile clinic offers equine West Nile virus vaccinations. For more information or to schedule an appointment, contact Canyon Pets at 774-5197.

As temperatures begin to increase, citizens are reminded that the best prevention against the West Nile virus in humans is to avoid mosquito bites. Citizens are encouraged to wear shoes and socks, long pants and a long-sleeved shirt when outdoors at dusk and dawn, when mosquitoes are most active and to use mosquito repellant. In order to keep mosquitoes away, citizens are also encouraged to:

• Eliminate standing water, where mosquitoes lay their eggs. Use landscaping to eliminate standing water on your property.

• Dispose of tin cans, plastic containers, ceramic pots or similar water-holding containers — or turn them upside down.

• Drill holes in the bottoms of all outdoor recycling containers.

• Drain water from pool or jacuzzi covers.

• Check roof gutters for proper drainage, and clean clogged gutters in the spring and fall.

• Turn over plastic wading pools and wheelbarrows when not in use.

• Change the water in birdbaths, pet dishes and flower pots at least twice a week.

• Clean vegetation and debris from the edge of ponds.

• Clean and chlorinate swimming pools, outdoor saunas and hot tubs.

Avoiding the West Nile virus should be a priority as we begin spring-cleaning projects. It is up to us to ward off the West Nile virus. For more information, contact the health department at (928) 226-2741 or toll-free at (877) 522-7800.

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