Coconino County Health Department officials announce today that a chipmunk found in south Flagstaff near Ft. Tuthill has tested positive for West Nile virus (WNV). This represents the third positive West Nile virus test in Coconino County this year. Last month, mosquito samples collected south of Flagstaff - near Kachina Village and mosquito samples collected near Lake Mary - tested positive for WNV. No human cases have been reported.
In 2007, there were two human cases, in Coconino County. In addition, one bird and three horses tested positive for the disease.
"This situation serves as a reminder that West Nile virus is an ongoing concern. People need to take precautions both at home and while out hiking or camping. It is important to remember that everyone, particularly older adults and people with compromised immune systems, should take simple steps to reduce their risk," said Barbara Worgess, CCHD Director.
WNV is a mosquito-borne virus that can cause symptoms ranging from mild flu-like symptoms to severe neurological symptoms. However, in most infected people there are no symptoms at all. Although the chance of becoming ill due to WNV is small, persons over the age of 50 are at higher risk for serious illness. In mild cases of WNV disease, symptoms including sudden onset of fever, headache, nausea, vomiting, eye pain, muscle pain, and rash, typically occur 3-14 days after the mosquito bite. More severe forms of the illness, including encephalitis and meningitis, are marked by weakness, high fever, stiff neck, headache, confusion, paralysis and seizures. Very severe illness can be fatal, but less than 1 percent of those infected develop the more severe illness. There is no specific treatment for WNV other than supportive care, and there is no vaccine available for humans.
The best way to prevent West Nile virus is to avoid mosquito bites. Mosquitoes are most active at dusk and dawn, so it is advisable to stay indoors during these times, wear shoes and socks, long pants and a long-sleeved shirt when outdoors, and use mosquito repellent. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, products containing these active ingredients typically provide reasonably long-lasting protection:
Oil of Lemon Eucalyptus* or PMD -the synthesized version of oil of lemon eucalyptus IR3535
Be sure to follow the directions on the label of the repellent.
Eliminating standing water where they lay their eggs can control mosquitoes. The following suggestions may help reduce or eliminate standing water around a home.
Dispose of or turn upside down tin cans, plastic containers, ceramic pots or similar water-holding containers.
Remove all discarded tires from your property. Used tires have become one of the most common mosquito breeding sites in the country.
Drill holes in the bottoms of all recycling containers that are kept outdoors.
Make sure roof gutters drain properly, 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 flowerpots at least twice per week.
Clean vegetation and debris from the edge of ponds.
Clean and chlorinate swimming pools, outdoor saunas and hot tubs.
Drain water from pool covers.
Use landscaping to eliminate standing water that collects on your property
These preventive measures should be continued until cold weather returns and mosquito activity diminishes in the fall.
The Coconino County Health Department is actively monitoring mosquitoes, horses and sentinel chicken flocks for signs of the West Nile virus. Dead birds are also tested for the virus. Citizens can help by reporting dead birds to the Coconino County Health Department. For instructions on how to safely collect a bird for testing or for more information, call (928) 679-8770, or check our website at www.coconino.az.gov/health.
As a reminder, the Coconino County Health Department encourages horse owners to vaccinate their horses. All residents are encouraged to eliminate mosquito-breeding sites and to wear mosquito repellant when outside until the mosquito season ends.
For more information, call the Coconino County Health Department at (928) 679-8750 or toll free 1-877-679-7272.