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PHOENIX -- Health officials have begun accepting test results for West Nile virus from private laboratories, leading to a sharp increase in the number of human West Nile virus cases in Arizona.
The sudden rise reflects approximately 50 West Nile positive blood samples tested by private laboratories. Previously, the Arizona State Health Laboratory had to confirm commercial lab results before they were included in the states official count.
After confirming dozens of commercial lab tests, health officials decided that those private lab tests were valid. As result, health officials on July 30 reported 69 new cases of West Nile virus in humans, bringing the states total to 232.
The age range of those afflicted is 1 month to 98 years.
While most of the cases (223) are in Maricopa County, human cases of West Nile virus also have been reported in Pinal (five), Graham (one), Mohave (two), and Apache (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 12 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.
Arizona Department of Health Services Director Catherine 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 increasing numbers 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