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PHOENIX -- A sharp increase in the number of human West Nile virus cases in Arizona is prompting health officials to urge all Arizonans to take steps to protect themselves, their families, friends, and neighbors.
We have to assume that West Nile virus is present throughout the state, said Arizona Department of Health Services Director Catherine Eden. People should not wait on reports of cases of West Nile in their communities before taking personal precautions. We are all at risk.
State health officials reported 47 new cases of West Nile virus in humans in Arizona, bringing the states total to 114. The age range of those afflicted is three months to 87 years, with a median age of 52.
While most of the cases are in Maricopa County, human cases of West Nile virus also have been reported in Pinal (three), Graham (one) and Mohave (one) counties. Maricopa County has reported two deaths a woman in her 70s, and a man in his 60s.
In addition, West Nile virus has been detected in 11 of Arizonas 15 counties. West Nile Virus is transmitted to humans and animals through mosquito bites. Mosquitoes become infected when they feed on infected birds.
Director Eden stressed that West Nile is a completely preventable disease -- if residents take precautions. We all think it wont happen to us, she said. But we are seeing an increasing number of Arizonans of all ages becoming ill with West Nile virus. To prevent becoming infected, Arizonans should take some simple steps to protect themselves.
The best way to protect yourself, family, friends, and neighbors from mosquito-borne illness is to reduce the number of mosquitoes around your home and neighborhood and to take personal precautions to avoid mosquito bites, such as:
-- Eliminate standing water where mosquitoes can breed. Check for items outside the home that collect water, such as cans, bottles, jars, buckets, old tires, drums and other containers.
-- Change water in flower vases, birdbaths, and animal watering pans at least twice a week.
-- Repair leaky pipes and outside faucets, and move air conditioner drain hoses frequently.
-- Avoid being bitten by mosquitoes when going outside at night by using insect repellent.
-- Wear lightweight clothing that covers the arms and legs during dawn or dusk, or in areas where mosquitoes are active.
Source: Arizona Department of Health Services